Nat the Navigator: The Life of Nathaniel Bowditch for Young Persons is a biography of Bowditch written by his son. The book, pulling extensively from journals, covers Bowditch’s life chronologically from his birth and childhood through his death at age 65.
Nathaniel Bowditch wrote the book on navigation — literally. The American Practical Navigator was first written by Bowditch in 1802. And while it has evolved, an updated version of the book continues to be carried on U.S. sailing vessels:
The American Practical Navigator, first published in 1802, was billed as the “epitome of navigation” by its original author, Nathaniel Bowditch. The text has evolved with the advances in navigation practices since that first issue and continues to serve as a valuable reference for marine navigation in the modern day.
The publication describes in detail the principles and factors of navigation, including piloting, electronic navigation, celestial navigation, mathematics, safety, oceanography and meterology. It also contains various tables used in typical navigational calculations and solutions, including the formulas used to derive the tabular data.
Along with the telling of Nathaniel Bowditch’s many accomplishments, the book focuses largely on the character of the man:
Nathaniel Bowditch, whose history I shall relate to you, was one whose character and actions presented many circumstances which cannot fail of being interesting to you. He died more than thirty years ago, in Boston; and, from having been a poor and ignorant boy, he became a man known all over the world for his great learning, while at the same time he was beloved for the goodness of his heart and the integrity of his character. May the perusal of his history excite some of you to imitate his virtues and his energy.
The book includes Bowditch’s:
- Early history.
- Love of arithmetic.
- Interest in books.
- Study of languages.
- Love of music.
- Various sea voyages.
- Persistence through hard times.
- Good use of time.
- Skill in navigation.
- Scientific observations.
A worthy study indeed.
Nat the Navigator is an excellent complement to the family read-aloud stack…and it is free!
- There are many references to Nathaniel Bowditch’s character. Create a character sketch using the resources below.
- Create a timeline of Bowditch’s accomplishments.
- Map the many locations Bowditch traveled to.
Nat the Navigator by Bowditch
Reputable hardcopy for those interested.
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
Family favorite about the man who wrote the book on navigation — literally. Set in Salem, Massachusetts.
Nathaniel Bowditch, Navigator
Great site for kids from the National Maritime Historical Society.
Massachusetts: A Unit Study
Bowditch was born in Salem and died in Boston.
14 Forms of Writing for the Older Student: Character Sketch
Options for further study.