To thousands of seafarers the American Practical Navigator is an everyday acquaintance; yet few can tell more of its author, Nathaniel Bowditch, than that he wrote, a long time ago, a remarkable compendium of nearly all the knowledge that is required in guiding a ship from place to place. The life and works of this wonderful man are worthy of being better known.
Nathaniel Bowditch was born on the 26th of March, 1773, at Salem, Mass., where his family had resided since the earliest settlement of the place. His ancestors for four generations back had been shipmasters; his father, however, meeting reverses early in life, had abandoned the sea and was reduced to gaining a livelihood by following the trade of a cooper. At the age of ten years, Nathaniel began to earn his own living in his father's shop, terminating a school career that had only just begun. After a short time he left the cooper shop and was entered as a clerk or apprentice at a ship-chandler's.