In 1714, the British government offered the Longitude Prize to the person who could come up with the means to allow sailors to know accurately where they were at sea. The prize was finally won over fifty years later by an obscure clockmaker called John Harrison who had made this project his life’s work. But his efforts revolutionised global navigation and helped create our modern world.
Now, 300 years on, a new Longitude Prize of £10 million has been announced, to be awarded in one of the following six areas: finding a means to ensure that everyone has access to safe and clean water; preventing the rise of resistance to antibiotics; restoring freedom of movement to people with paralysis; finding a means of flying without damaging the environment; fighting world hunger by ensuring sustainable food for everyone; or helping people with dementia live independently for longer.
A public vote will decide which of these six categories is chosen for the prize itself. The Astronomer Royal has rightly described the prize as being about encouraging ‘fresh thinking’ in helping to solve one of the greatest problems our society faces.
It seems to me that the Longitude Prize could become a real celebration of human creativity and ingenuity. Our creativity is given to us by God. We have tremendous capacity to be creative because we share in the image of the God who created us.
At the beginning, God told human beings to be fruitful, to fill the earth and subdue it. So we find ourselves with the awesome privilege and responsibility of sharing in the stewardship of God’s creation. This means using our creativity for good, caring for the earth and for our brothers and sisters who live in it. What could be a more rewarding life’s work – a vocation, even – than that?
The Revd John Paul Hoskins, Chaplain to the Bishop of Gloucester