Kriston Capps is a staff writer for CityLab covering housing, architecture, and politics. He previously worked as a senior editor for Architect magazine.
Critics have proposed adding Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen, and the Brontë sisters, among others, to balance things out.
It took 250 years, but John Harrison finally had the last laugh.
His critics said that his claims about his clocks were laughable. Had he not solved the so-called Longitude Problem in 1765, changing navigation for seafaring forever? And yet when Harrison said that he could make a pendulum clock that was accurate within a second over 100 days, he was ridiculed for “an incoherence and absurdity that was little short of the symptoms of insanity.”
Last year, Harrison’s claims were given a fair trial for the first time. A convention of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers and the National Physical Laboratory tested a pendulum timepiece made precisely to Harrison’s specifications and found that it lost only five-eighths of a second over the 100-day period. In April, Harrison’s clock was posthumously named the “most accurate mechanical clock with a pendulum swinging in free air” by Guinness World Records.
Haters can hate. Harrison earned his place on the brand new U.K. passport.
Harrison is just one of the British legends tapped by the Passport Office for a new vision for the U.K. passport. The new “Creative United Kingdom” design features a few of the traditional standbys—Shakespeare and the red telephone booth, for example—but also selections from across British culture. John Constable and Elisabeth Scott, for example, both appear, representing painting and architecture, respectively. Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor, two contemporary artists, also made the grade.
But only two women appear in the proposed 34-page passport, which prompted protests from women in Parliament. Barbara Hepworth, Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen—the face of the new 10-pound note—and the Brontë sisters are among some of the names proffered by critics as additions to balance out the passport.
Perhaps the U.K. would be better off going in Norway’s direction and filling the passport with cool reductive landscapes.