Biography of Nauscopy Creator Monsieur Bottineau Part 2

About the nauscopy creator Monsieur Bottineau, biography and history of the man who discovered the science of ship spotting based on atmosphere conditions on the horizon.


The Man with No Horizon

Bottineau was convinced that he had discovered a real science that would do "honor to the 18th century." He said that although he had discovered a science known to no one else, it was not difficult to learn, and it would not take him very long to teach aspiring nauscopists the techniques of his art. As a loyal patriot, he decided to return to France with his discovery. When he announced his intention, the entire island applauded his decision, and he was given several highly enthusiastic references by respected islanders. The governor's letter said, "However incredible this discovery may appear... we cannot treat him as an impostor, or as a visionary. We have had ocular demonstrations for so many years (15) and in no instance has any vessel reached the island, the approach of which he has not predicted...."

During his voyage back to France, Bottineau became the captain's most reliable lookout; he correctly announced the approach of 27 vessels. The sea journey also proved to him that his theories worked equally well from sea to land, and on several occasions he informed the captain that the ship was either too close to or too far from the coast.

On June 13, 1784, Bottineau landed in France and went straight to Paris to request an audience with the minister of marine. But like most men ahead of their times, he was met with crushing civil-service indifference. After weeks of pressing for a hearing, the only acknowledgment that he received was a curt letter from the minister of marine saying his offer had been taken under consideration. When, finally, his offer to share his discovery did receive a brief review, the Abbe Fontenay, editor of the Mercure de France--without even looking at the countless testimonials Bottineau presented--ridiculed nauscopy, saying that Bottineau's vessels were not "ships at sea but castles in the air."

Bottineau had long been ignored, then finally rejected. Now he disappeared from sight, and just before the French Revolution, in June, 1789, The Scots Magazine wrote that "A Monsieur Bottineau, the inventor of a method by which the approach of ships at sea may be discovered... died lately in great misery at Pondicherry." However, revolutionary leader Jean Paul Marat considered Bottineau's death sufficiently interesting to mention it briefly in a letter to a friend.

Postscript. On Mauritius, as late as 1818, there lived an old man who claimed he had learned the art of nauscopy from Bottineau. This disciple continued to impress British seamen with his unvarying success at predicting the arrival of ships. Another report, in 1935, claimed that a man named Peter Green, of the island of Tristan da Cunha, had also developed Bottineau's mysterious talent.

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