Agreeing on a universal Prime Meridian was not an easy affair.
Geographers and scientists of allied disciplines from all nations had tried to fix a common zero for longitude and time reckoning throughout the globe.
Hipparchos was the first astronomer to determine the differences in longitude. Ptolemy , following the Marinus of Tyre, adopted a meridian through the Canary Islands, which marked the western boundary of the world, whereas, to the east, there seemed to be no such boundary.
In 1871 the first International Geographical Congress (IGC) took place at Antwerp. The view expressed was that for passage charts for all nations, not necessarily coastal or harbour charts, the Greenwich Meridian should be adopted as the common zero for longitude, and that this should become obligatory within fifteen years.
It was also recommended that, whenever ships exchanged longitudes at sea , they should be based on Greenwich. This did not apply to land maps and coastal charts, these should keep its own prime meridian.
However, the 2nd IGC in Rome in 1875 discussed the whole matter again without coming to any further conclusions. France said that if the British were to accept the metric system, then they would accept the Greenwich Meridian. Eventually, it was agreed internationally that a Prime Meridian was needed, and that it should be Greenwich.
Read on about the 1884 International Meridian Conference and its decisions.
Prime meridians in use in the early 1880s
|Brazil||Greenwich and Rio de Janeiro||Rio de Janeiro|
|Denmark||Greenwich, Copenhagen and Paris||Copenhagen|
|France and Algeria||Paris||Paris|
|Germany||Greenwich and Ferro||Ferro|
|Norway||Greenwich and Christiania||Ferro and Christiania|
|Russia||Greenwich, Pulkowa and Ferro||Ferro, Pulkowa, Warsaw and Paris|
|Sweden||Greenwich, Stockholm and Paris||Ferro and Stockholm|
|UK and colonies||Greenwich||Greenwich|
|USA||Greenwich||Greenwich and Washington|