Adversities frequently happen to people. These
challenges can come in many forms. They can be health issues or life
situations. Regardless of the shapes of these trying times, the response of
individuals to these occurrences is critical. Can people rise above
difficulties or do they give up and accept smaller goals? Are the troubles
building blocks in character development or crushing blows to aspirations?
The common denominator to conquer adversities
seems to be personal choices to use these trying times as building blocks
instead of stumbling stones. Jean Lee Latham has written such a story in her
acclaimed adolescent biography, "Carry On, Mr. Bowditch."
As a young boy, Nathaniel (Nat) Bowditch witnesses
many troubling events. His father has wrecked his ship off the coast of
Massachusetts, harming the Bowditch’s family fortune. Instead of living the
life of a wealthy shipman, Nathaniel sees his father struggling to support
his family as a cooper by making barrels.
The Revolutionary War erupts at this time, causing
great hardship throughout the American colonies. Periodically, diseases
sweep though Salem, killing many local citizens. Nat’s mother weakens from
all of these trials and eventually dies.
Now Mr. Bowditch realizes he cannot continue to
take care of all of his children, and signs over Nat to be an indentured
servant to an accounting firm. The 12-year-old boy knows that he will have
to labor for the next nine years without pay.
At first, Nat struggles with loneliness and the
difficulties of learning the intricacies of accounting. But the boy is quite
intelligent and realizes that he can learn something valuable from this
Quite talented in mathematics, Nat diligently
studies everything he can on the subject. Soon he teaches himself
algorithms, geometry and starts studying trigonometry. A chance visit with a
Harvard University professor starts him off on the study of Latin so that he
can read Isaac Newton’s "Principia Mathematica." He takes his struggles and
channels that energy in his work and studies.
By the time Nat turns 21 years old, he knows as
much mathematics as a Harvard graduate. What he doesn’t have is anyone to
lead him when his indentured servitude is over. He is offered a surveying
job and throws himself into the trade with his normal vigor.
A beautiful young woman named Elizabeth Boardman
notices this virtuous young man and is impressed. Being born into a rich
Salem shipping family, Elizabeth knows the perils and prosperity of sea
Nathaniel becomes such an accomplished surveyor,
that a shipping company soon hires him to be a navigator for a voyage. Just
before leaving, Nat meets Elizabeth and falls in love with her. As he leaves
Salem on his first voyage, Elizabeth stands on the upper porch of her
family’s beautiful home and wave’s goodbye. Having finally found the love he
always wanted, Nat is again faced with the challenges of life.
What happens to Nat and Elizabeth? Do they marry
and have a beautiful and long marriage? Or does life throw more trying and
difficult ordeals Nat’s way?
What do you do when you are faced with hard times?
What does Nathaniel do? To find out, read this outstanding biography about
Nathaniel Bowditch actually overcame the long odds
described in Latham’s biography. He rewrote the navigation manuals of the
time and published his famous book "Bowditch’s American Practical
Navigator." The book was so much more accurate than any other books on naval
navigation that it became a standard text in the sea world.
I hope you enjoy this biography as much as I did. It is well written and
shows the power of making the most of opportunities and staying optimistic
when trials arrive.