How Did The Inventor Of The Clock Know What Time It Was?


How Did The Inventor Of The Clock Know What Time It Was

When clocks were invented How did they know the time?

Sundials – The earliest known timekeeping devices appeared in Egypt and Mesopotamia, around 3500 BCE. Sundials consisted of a tall vertical or diagonal-standing object used to measure the time, called a gnomon. Sundials were able to measure time (with relative accuracy) by the shadow caused by the gnomon.

  1. The earliest wholly verified appearance of a sundial is the Egyptian shadow clock, circa 1500 BCE.
  2. This clock used the passage of the sun overhead to help people decipher the time.
  3. It featured a crosspiece placed to the east of the gnomon, with markings set to delineate the hours.
  4. Noon occurred at midday, and it would be at this time that the crosspiece would be moved to the west of the gnomon.

The days would be divided into 12 hours (which we will discuss later). At night, a tool called a merkhet would be used. The merkhet consisted of two bars placed in alignment with the pole star. It used the pole star’s position to track the relative movement of the stars and constellations.

  1. Naturally, sundials had some flaws in their construction.
  2. However, we can view mankind’s ability to start documenting parts of the day with a timepiece as a massive technological leap.
  3. The most glaring fault is that of accuracy: The length of daylight hours varies throughout the seasons, and for this reason, the measurement and value of an hourly “unit” varies as well.

Furthermore, daylight hours vary based on region, location, and even city. Because of this, universal time did not exist and would not for millennia later. The varying hours were called “seasonal hours.” They would be used by the Greeks and the Romans, who would spread the timekeeping method across the world.

  • The use of the astrological clock in tandem with shadow clocks allowed the development of Egypt’s year.
  • This calendar consisted of 12 30-day periods based on the lunar cycle, followed by a 5-day period to accurately represent the yearly changing seasons.
  • In Egypt and other countries closer to the equator, the lunar cycle is more essential to timekeeping than the solar cycle because of their temperate climates.

For them, the passage of the moon is more perceptible than the changing of the seasons.

How did how did the inventor of the clock know what time it was?

Sign up for Scientific American ’s free newsletters. ” data-newsletterpromo_article-image=”” data-newsletterpromo_article-button-text=”Sign Up” data-newsletterpromo_article-button-link=”” name=”articleBody” itemprop=”articleBody”> Humankind’s efforts to tell time have helped drive the evolution of our technology and science throughout history. The need to gauge the divisions of the day and night led the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans to create sundials, water clocks and other early chronometric tools. Western Europeans adopted these technologies, but by the 13th century, demand for a dependable timekeeping instrument led medieval artisans to invent the mechanical clock. Although this new device satisfied the requirements of monastic and urban communities, it was too inaccurate and unreliable for scientific application until the pendulum was employed to govern its operation. The precision timekeepers that were subsequently developed resolved the critical problem of finding a ship’s position at sea and went on to play key roles in the industrial revolution and the advance of Western civilization. Today highly accurate timekeeping instruments set the beat for most of our electronic devices. Nearly all computers, for example, contain a quartz-crystal clock to regulate their operation. Moreover, not only do time signals beamed down from Global Positioning System satellites calibrate the functions of precision navigation equipment, they do so as well for cellular telephones, instant stock-trading systems and nationwide power-distribution grids. So integral have these time-based technologies become to our day-to-day lives that we recognize our dependency on them only when they fail to work. Reckoning Dates ACCORDING TO archaeological evidence, the Babylonians and Egyptians began to measure time at least 5,000 years ago, introducing calendars to organize and coordinate communal activities and public events, to schedule the shipment of goods and, in particular, to regulate cycles of planting and harvesting. They based their calendars on three natural cycles: the solar day, marked by the successive periods of light and darkness as the earth rotates on its axis; the lunar month, following the phases of the moon as it orbits the earth; and the solar year, defined by the changing seasons that accompany our planet’s revolution around the sun. Before the invention of artificial light, the moon had greater social impact. And, for those living near the equator in particular, its waxing and waning was more conspicuous than the passing of the seasons. Hence, the calendars developed at the lower latitudes were influenced more by the lunar cycle than by the solar year. In more northern climes, however, where seasonal agriculture was important, the solar year became more crucial. As the Roman Empire expanded northward, it organized its calendar for the most part around the solar year. Today’s Gregorian calendar derives from the Babylonian, Egyptian, Jewish and Roman calendars. The Egyptians formulated a civil calendar having 12 months of 30 days, with five days added to approximate the solar year. Each period of 10 days was marked by the appearance of special star groups (constellations) called decans. At the rise of the star Sirius just before sunrise, which occurred around the all-important annual flooding of the Nile, 12 decans could be seen spanning the heavens. The cosmic significance the Egyptians placed in the 12 decans led them to develop a system in which each interval of darkness (and later, each interval of daylight) was divided into a dozen equal parts. These periods became known as temporal hours because their duration varied according to the changing length of days and nights with the passing of the seasons. Summer hours were long, winter ones short; only at the spring and autumn equinoxes were the hours of daylight and darkness equal. Temporal hours, which were adopted by the Greeks and then the Romans (who spread them throughout Europe), remained in use for more than 2,500 years. Inventors created sundials, which indicate time by the length or direction of the sun’s shadow, to track temporal hours during the day. The sundial’s nocturnal counterpart, the water clock, was designed to measure temporal hours at night. One of the first water clocks was a basin with a small hole near the bottom through which the water dripped out. The falling water level denoted the passing hour as it dipped below hour lines inscribed on the inner surface. Although these devices performed satisfactorily around the Mediterranean, they could not always be depended on in the cloudy and often freezing weather of northern Europe. The Pulse of Time THE EARLIEST RECORDED weight-driven mechanical clock was installed in 1283 at Dunstable Priory in Bedfordshire, England. That the Roman Catholic Church should have played a major role in the invention and development of clock technology is not surprising: the strict observance of prayer times by monastic orders occasioned the need for a more reliable instrument of time measurement. Further, the Church not only controlled education but also possessed the wherewithal to employ the most skillful craftsmen. Additionally, the growth of urban mercantile populations in Europe during the second half of the 13th century created demand for improved timekeeping devices. By 1300 artisans were building clocks for churches and cathedrals in France and Italy. Because the initial examples indicated the time by striking a bell (thereby alerting the surrounding community to its daily duties), the name for this new machine was adopted from the Latin word for bell, clocca, The revolutionary aspect of this new timekeeper was neither the descending weight that provided its motive force nor the gear wheels (which had been around for at least 1,300 years) that transferred the power; it was the part called the escapement. This device controlled the wheels’ rotation and transmitted the power required to maintain the motion of the oscillator, the part that regulated the speed at which the timekeeper operated, The inventor of the clock escapement is unknown. Uniform Hours ALTHOUGH THE MECHANICAL CLOCK could be adjusted to maintain temporal hours, it was naturally suited to keeping equal ones. With uniform hours, however, arose the question of when to begin counting them, and so, in the early 14th century, a number of systems evolved. The schemes that divided the day into 24 equal parts varied according to the start of the count: Italian hours began at sunset, Babylonian hours at sunrise, astronomical hours at midday and great clock hours (used for some large public clocks in Germany) at midnight. Eventually these and competing systems were superseded by small clock, or French, hours, which split the day, as we currently do, into two 12-hour periods commencing at midnight. During the 1580s clockmakers received commissions for timekeepers showing minutes and seconds, but their mechanisms were insufficiently accurate for these fractions to be included on dials until the 1660s, when the pendulum clock was developed. Minutes and seconds derive from the sexagesimal partitions of the degree introduced by Babylonian astronomers. The word minute has its origins in the Latin prima minuta, the first small division; second comes from secunda minuta, the second small division. The sectioning of the day into 24 hours and of hours and minutes into 60 parts became so well established in Western culture that all efforts to change this arrangement failed. The most notable attempt took place in revolutionary France in the 1790s, when the government adopted the decimal system. Although the French successfully introduced the meter, liter and other base-10 measures, the bid to break the day into 10 hours, each consisting of 100 minutes split into 100 seconds, lasted only 16 months. Portable Clocks FOR CENTURIES after the invention of the mechanical clock, the periodic tolling of the bell in the town church or clock tower was enough to demarcate the day for most people. But by the 15th century, a growing number of clocks were being made for domestic use. Those who could afford the luxury of owning a clock found it convenient to have one that could be moved from place to place. Innovators accomplished portability by replacing the weight with a coiled spring. The tension of a spring, however, is greater after it is wound. The contrivance that overcame this problem, known as a fusee (from fusus, the Latin term for spindle), was invented by an unknown mechanical genius probably between 1400 and 1450, This cone-shaped device was connected by a cord to the barrel housing the spring: when the clock was wound, drawing the cord from the barrel onto the fusee, the diminishing diameter of the spiral of the fusee compensated for the increasing pull of the spring. Thus, the fusee equalized the force of the spring on the wheels of the timekeeper. The importance of the fusee should not be underestimated: it made possible the development of the portable clock as well as the subsequent evolution of the pocket watch. Many high-grade, spring-driven timepieces, such as marine chronometers, continued to incorporate this device until after World War II. Pendulums Get into the Swing IN THE 16TH CENTURY Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe and his contemporaries tried to use clocks for scientific purposes, yet even the best ones were still too unreliable. Astronomers in particular needed a better tool for timing the transit of stars and thereby creating more accurate maps of the heavens. The pendulum proved to be the key to boosting the accuracy and dependability of timekeepers. Galileo Galilei, the Italian physicist and astronomer, and others before him experimented with pendulums, but a young Dutch astronomer and mathematician named Christiaan Huygens devised the first pendulum clock on Christmas Day in 1656. Huygens recognized the commercial as well as the scientific significance of his invention immediately, and within six months a local maker in the Hague had been granted a license to manufacture pendulum clocks. Huygens saw that a pendulum traversing a circular arc completed small oscillations faster than large ones. Therefore, any variation in the extent of the pendulum’s swing would cause the clock to gain or lose time. Realizing that maintaining a constant amplitude (amount of travel) from swing to swing was impossible, Huygens devised a pendulum suspension that caused the bob to move in a cycloid-shaped arc rather than a circular one. This enabled it to oscillate in the same time regardless of its amplitude, Pendulum clocks were about 100 times as accurate as their predecessors, reducing a typical gain or loss of 15 minutes a day to about a minute a week. News of the invention spread rapidly, and by 1660 English and French artisans were developing their own versions of this new timekeeper. The advent of the pendulum not only heightened demand for clocks but also resulted in their development as furniture. National styles soon began to emerge: English makers designed the case to fit around the clock movement; in contrast, the French placed greater emphasis on the shape and decoration of the case. Huygens, however, had little interest in these fashions, devoting much of his time to improving the device both for astronomical use and for solving the problem of finding longitude at sea. Innovative Clockworks IN 1675 HUYGENS devised his next major improvement, the spiral balance spring. Just as gravity controls the swinging oscillation of a pendulum in clocks, this spring regulates the rotary oscillation of a balance wheel in portable timepieces. A balance wheel is a finely balanced disk that rotates fully one way and then the other, repeating the cycle over and over, The spiral balance spring revolutionized the accuracy of watches, enabling them to keep time to within a minute a day. This advance sparked an almost immediate rise in the market for watches, which were now no longer typically worn on a chain around the neck but were carried in a pocket, a wholly new fashion in clothing. At about the same time, Huygens heard of an important English invention. The anchor escapement, unlike the verge escapement he had been using in his pendulum clocks, allowed the pendulum to swing in such a small arc that maintaining a cycloidal pathway became unnecessary. Moreover, this escapement made practical the use of a long, seconds-beating pendulum and thus led to the development of a new case design. The longcase clock, commonly known since 1876 as the grandfather clock (after a song by American Henry Clay Work), began to emerge as one of the most popular English styles. Longcase clocks with anchor escapements and long pendulums can keep time to within a few seconds a week. The celebrated English clockmaker Thomas Tompion and his successor, George Graham, later modified the anchor escapement to operate without recoil. This enhanced design, called the deadbeat escapement, became the most widespread type used in precision timekeeping for the next 150 years. Solving the Longitude Problem WHEN THE ROYAL OBSERVATORY at Greenwich, England, was founded in 1675, part of its charter was to find the so-much-desired longitude of places. The first Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed, used clocks fitted with anchor escapements to time the exact moments that stars crossed the celestial meridian, an imaginary line that connects the poles of the celestial sphere and defines the due-south point in the night sky. This allowed him to gather more accurate information on star positions than had hitherto been possible by making angular measurements with sextants or quadrants alone. Although navigators could find their latitude (their position north or south of the equator) at sea by gauging the altitude of the sun or the polestar, the heavens did not provide such a straightforward solution for finding longitude. Storms and currents often confounded attempts to keep track of distance and direction traveled across oceans. The resulting navigational errors cost seafaring nations dearly, not only in prolonged voyages but also in loss of lives, ships and cargo. The severity of this predicament was brought home to the British government in 1707, when an admiral of the fleet and more than 1,600 sailors perished in the wrecks of four Royal Navy ships off the coast of the Scilly Isles. Thus, in 1714, through an act of Parliament, Britain offered substantial prizes for practical solutions to finding longitude at sea. The largest prize, 20,000 (which is equivalent to about 12 million today), would be given to the inventor of an instrument that could determine a ship’s longitude to within half a degree, or 30 nautical miles, when reckoned at the end of a voyage to a port in the West Indies, whose longitude could be accurately ascertained using proved land-based methods. The great reward attracted a deluge of harebrained schemes. Hence, the Board of Longitude, the committee appointed to review promising ideas, held no meetings for more than 20 years. Two approaches, however, had long been known to be theoretically sound. The first, called the lunar-distance method, involved precise observations of the moon’s position in relation to the stars to determine the time at a reference point from which longitude could be measured; the other required a very accurate clock to make the same determination. Because the earth rotates every 24 hours, or 15 degrees in an hour, a two-hour time difference represents a 30-degree difference in longitude. The seemingly overwhelming obstacles to keeping accurate time at sea-among them the often violent motions of ships, extreme changes in temperature, and variations in gravity at different latitudes-led English physicist Isaac Newton and his followers to believe that the lunar-distance method, though problematic, was the only viable solution. Newton was wrong, however. In 1737 the board finally met for the first time to discuss the work of a most unlikely candidate, a Yorkshire carpenter named John Harrison. Harrison’s bulky longitude timekeeper had been used on a voyage to Lisbon and on the return trip had proved its worth by correcting the navigator’s dead reckoning of the ship’s longitude by 68 miles. Its maker, however, was dissatisfied. Instead of asking the board for a West Indies trial, he requested and received financial support to construct an improved machine. After two years of work, still displeased with his second effort, Harrison embarked on a third, laboring on it for 19 years. But by the time it was ready for testing, he realized that his fourth marine timekeeper, a five-inch-diameter watch he had been developing simultaneously, was better. On a voyage to Jamaica in 1761, Harrison’s oversize watch performed well enough to win the prize, but the board refused to give him his due without further proof. A second sea trial in 1764 confirmed his success. Harrison was reluctantly granted 10,000. Only when King George III intervened in 1773 did he receive the remaining prize money. Harrison’s breakthrough inspired further developments. By 1790 the marine chronometer was so refined that its fundamental design never needed to be changed. Mass-Produced Timepieces AT THE TURN of the 19th century, clocks and watches were relatively accurate, but they remained expensive. Recognizing the potential market for a low-cost timekeeper, two investors in Waterbury, Conn., took action. In 1807 they gave Eli Terry, a clockmaker in nearby Plymouth, a three-year contract to manufacture 4,000 longcase clock movements from wood. A substantial down payment made it possible for Terry to devote the first year to fabricating machinery for mass production. By manufacturing interchangeable parts, he completed the work within the terms of the contract. A few years later Terry designed a wooden-movement shelf clock using the same volume-production techniques. Unlike the longcase design, which required the buyer to purchase a case separately, Terry’s shelf clock was completely self-contained. The customer needed only to place it on a level shelf and wind it up. For the relatively modest sum of 15, many average people could now afford a clock. This achievement led to the establishment of what was to become the renowned Connecticut clockmaking industry. Before the expansion of railroads in the 19th century, towns in the U.S. and Europe used the sun to determine local time. For example, because noon occurs in Boston about three minutes before it does in Worcester, Mass., Boston’s clocks were set about three minutes ahead of those in Worcester. The expanding railroad network, however, needed a uniform time standard for all the stations along the line. Astronomical observatories began to distribute the precise time to the railroad companies by telegraph. The first public time service, introduced in 1851, was based on clock beats wired from the Harvard College Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. The Royal Observatory introduced its time service the next year, creating a single standard time for Great Britain. The U.S. established four time zones in 1883. By the next year the governments of all nations had recognized the benefits of a worldwide standard of time for navigation and trade. At the 1884 International Meridian Conference in Washington, D.C., the globe was divided into 24 time zones. Signatories chose the Royal Observatory as the prime meridian (zero degrees longitude, the line from which all other longitudes are measured) in part because two thirds of the world’s shipping already used Greenwich time for navigation. Watches for the Masses MANY CLOCKMAKERS of this era realized that the market for watches would far exceed that for clocks if production costs could be reduced. The problem of mass-fabricating interchangeable parts for watches, however, was considerably more complicated because the precision demanded in making the necessary miniaturized components was so much greater. Although improvements in quantity manufacture had been instituted in Europe since the late 18th century, European watchmakers’ fears of saturating the market and threatening their workers’ jobs by abandoning traditional practices stifled most thoughts of introducing machinery for the production of interchangeable watch parts. Disturbed that American watchmakers seemed unable to compete with their counterparts in Europe, which controlled the market in the late 1840s, a watchmaker in Maine named Aaron L. Dennison met with Edward Howard, the operator of a clock factory in Roxbury, Mass., to discuss mass-production methods for watches. Howard and his partner gave Dennison space to experiment and develop machinery for the project. By the fall of 1852, 20 watches had been completed under Dennison’s supervision. His workmen finished 100 watches by the following spring, and 1,000 more were produced a year later. By that time the manufacturing facilities in Roxbury were proving too small, so the newly named Boston Watch Company moved to Waltham, Mass., where by the end of 1854 it was assembling 36 watches a week. The American Waltham Watch Company, as it eventually became known, benefited greatly from a huge demand for watches during the Civil War, when Union Army forces used them to synchronize operations. Improvements in fabrication techniques further boosted output and cut prices. Meanwhile other U.S. companies formed in the hope of capturing part of the burgeoning trade. The Swiss, who had previously dominated the industry, grew concerned when their exports plummeted in the 1870s. The investigator they sent to Massachusetts discovered that not only was productivity higher at the Waltham factory but production costs were less. Even some of the lower-grade American watches could be expected to keep reasonably good time. The watch was at last a commodity accessible to the masses. Because women had worn bracelet watches in the 19th century, wristwatches were long considered feminine accoutrements. During World War I, however, the pocket watch was modified so that it could be strapped to the wrist, where it could be viewed more readily on the battlefield. With the help of a substantial marketing campaign, the masculine fashion for wristwatches caught on after the war. Self-winding mechanical wristwatches made their appearance during the 1920s. High-Precision Clocks AT THE END of the 19th century, Siegmund Riefler of Munich developed a radical new design of regulator-a highly accurate timekeeper that served as a standard for controlling others. Housed in a partial vacuum to minimize the effects of barometric pressure and equipped with a pendulum largely unaffected by temperature variations, Riefler’s regulators attained an accuracy of a tenth of a second a day and were thus adopted by nearly every astronomical observatory. Further progress came several decades later, when English railroad engineer William H. Shortt designed a so-called free pendulum clock that reputedly kept time to within about a second a year. Shortt’s system incorporated two pendulum clocks, one a master (housed in an evacuated tank) and the other a slave (which contained the time dials). Every 30 seconds the slave clock gave an electromagnetic impulse to, and was in turn regulated by, the master clock pendulum, which was thus nearly free from mechanical disturbances. Although Shortt clocks began to displace Rieflers as observatory regulators during the 1920s, their superiority was short-lived. In 1928 Warren A. Marrison, an engineer at Bell Laboratories in New York, discovered an extremely uniform and reliable frequency source that was as revolutionary for timekeeping as the pendulum had been 272 years earlier. Developed originally for use in radio broadcasting, the quartz crystal vibrates at a highly regular rate when excited by an electric current, The first quartz clocks installed at the Royal Observatory in 1939 varied by only two thousandths of a second a day. By the end of World War II, this accuracy had improved to the equivalent of a second every 30 years. Quartz-crystal technology did not remain the premier frequency standard for long either, however. By 1948 Harold Lyons and his associates at the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C., had based the first atomic clock on a far more precise and stable source of timekeeping; an atom’s natural resonant frequency, the periodic oscillation between two of its energy states, Subsequent experiments in both the U.S. and England in the 1950s led to the development of the cesium-beam atomic clock. Today the averaged times of cesium clocks in various parts of the world provide the standard frequency for Coordinated Universal Time, which has an accuracy of better than one nanosecond a day. Up to the mid-20th century, the sidereal day, the period of the earth’s rotation on its axis in relation to the stars, was used to determine standard time. This practice had been retained even though it had been suspected since the late 18th century that our planet’s axial rotation was not entirely constant. The rise of cesium clocks capable of measuring discrepancies in the earth’s spin, however, meant that a change was necessary. A new definition of the second, based on the resonant frequency of the cesium atom, was adopted as the new standard unit of time in 1967. The precise measurement of time is of such fundamental importance to science that the search for even greater accuracy continues. Current and coming generations of atomic clocks, such as the hydrogen maser (a frequency oscillator), the cesium fountain and, in particular, the optical clock (both frequency discriminators), are expected to deliver an accuracy (more precisely, a stability) of 100 femtoseconds (100 quadrillionths of a second) over a day, Although our ability to measure time will surely improve in the future, nothing will change the fact that it is the one thing of which we will never have enough. THE AUTHOR William J.H. Andrewes is a museum consultant and maker of precision sundials who has specialized in the history of time measurement for more than 30 years. He has worked at several scholarly institutions, including Harvard University. In addition to writing articles for popular and academic journals, Andrewes edited The Quest for Longitude and co-wrote The Illustrated Longitude with Dava Sobel. His past exhibitions include The Art of the Timekeeper at the Frick Collection in New York City. This article was originally published with the title “A Chronicle Of Timekeeping” in SA Special Editions 16, 1s, 46-55 (February 2006) doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0206-46sp

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Who invented the clock to tell time?

Pendulum clocks – The first accurate timekeepers depended on the phenomenon known as harmonic motion, in which the restoring force acting on an object moved away from its equilibrium position—such as a pendulum or an extended spring—acts to return the object to that position, and causes it to oscillate,

Harmonic oscillators can be used as accurate timekeepers as the period of oscillation does not depend on the amplitude of the motion—and so it always takes the same time to complete one oscillation. The period of a harmonic oscillator is completely dependent on the physical characteristics of the oscillating system and not the starting conditions or the amplitude,

The period when clocks were controlled by harmonic oscillators was the most productive era in timekeeping. The first invention of this type was the pendulum clock, which was designed and built by Dutch polymath Christiaan Huygens in 1656. Early versions erred by less than one minute per day, and later ones only by 10 seconds, very accurate for their time.

Dials that showed minutes and seconds became common after the increase in accuracy made possible by the pendulum clock. Brahe used clocks with minutes and seconds to observe stellar positions. The pendulum clock outperformed all other kinds of mechanical timekeepers to such an extent that these were usually refitted with a pendulum—a task that could be done without difficulty —so that few verge escapement devices have survived in their original form.

The first pendulum clocks used a verge escapement, which required wide swings of about 100° and so had short, light pendulums. The swing was reduced to around 6° after the invention of the anchor mechanism enabled the use of longer, heavier pendulums with slower beats that had less variation, as they more closely resembled simple harmonic motion, required less power, and caused less friction and wear.

The first known anchor escapement clock was built by the English clockmaker William Clement in 1671 for King’s College, Cambridge, now in the Science Museum, London, The anchor escapement originated with Hooke, although it has been argued that it was invented by Clement, or the English clockmaker Joseph Knibb,

The Jesuits made major contributions to the development of pendulum clocks in the 17th and 18th centuries, having had an “unusually keen appreciation of the importance of precision”. In measuring an accurate one-second pendulum, for example, the Italian astronomer Father Giovanni Battista Riccioli persuaded nine fellow Jesuits “to count nearly 87,000 oscillations in a single day”. Detail from the face of an equation clock made by Ferdinand Berthoud, c.1752 ( Metropolitan Museum of Art ) Huygens first used a clock to calculate the equation of time (the difference between the apparent solar time and the time given by a clock), publishing his results in 1665.

The relationship enabled astronomers to use the stars to measure sidereal time, which provided an accurate method for setting clocks. The equation of time was engraved on sundials so that clocks could be set using the Sun. In 1720, Joseph Williamson claimed to have invented a clock that showed solar time, fitted with a cam and differential gearing, so that the clock indicated true solar time.

Other innovations in timekeeping during this period include the invention of the rack and snail striking mechanism for striking clocks by the English mechanician Edward Barlow, the invention by either Barlow or Daniel Quare, a London clock-maker, in 1676 of the repeating clock that chimes the number of hours or minutes, and the deadbeat escapement, invented around 1675 by the astronomer Richard Towneley,

Paris and Blois were the early centres of clockmaking in France, and French clockmakers such as Julien Le Roy, clockmaker of Versailles, were leaders in case design and ornamental clocks. Le Roy belonged to the fifth generation of a family of clockmakers, and was described by his contemporaries as “the most skillful clockmaker in France, possibly in Europe”.

He invented a special repeating mechanism which improved the precision of clocks and watches, a face that could be opened to view the inside clockwork, and made or supervised over 3,500 watches during his career of almost five decades, which ended with his death in 1759. Engraving of John Harrison —with his gridiron pendulum shown in the background (1768), Science Museum, London Any inherent errors in early pendulum clocks were smaller than other errors caused by factors such as temperature variation. In 1729 the Yorkshire carpenter and self-taught clockmaker John Harrison invented the gridiron pendulum, which used at least three metals of different lengths and expansion properties, connected so as to maintain the overall length of the pendulum when it is heated or cooled by its surroundings.

In 1781 the clockmaker George Graham compensated for temperature variation in an iron pendulum by using a bob made from a glass jar of mercury—a liquid metal at room temperature that expands faster than glass. More accurate versions of this innovation contained the mercury in thinner iron jars to make them more responsive.

This type of temperature compensating pendulum was improved still further when the mercury was contained within the rod itself, which allowed the two metals to be thermally coupled more tightly. In 1895, the invention of invar, an alloy made from iron and nickel that expands very little, largely eliminated the need for earlier inventions designed to compensate for the variation in temperature.

When was the first clock invented and how did they know what time it was?

The first mechanical clock – The world’s first mechanical clocks are thought to have been tower clocks built in the region spanning northern Italy to southern Germany from around 1270 to 1300 during the renaissance period. These clocks did not yet have dials or hands, but told the time by striking bells.

How did people know what time it was at night before clocks?

Sundials and water clocks – We will never know who was the first man or woman to try to give structure to the measurement of time, although in the Bible, the book of Genesis exemplified change on a day-to-day basis, and with evening and morning. The Ancient Egyptians used simple sundials and divided days into smaller parts, and it has been suggested that as early as 1,500BC, they divided the interval between sunrise and sunset into 12 parts. How Did The Inventor Of The Clock Know What Time It Was An ancient Egyptian sundial. University of Basel Our familiar divisions of time are more recent and current terminology about time and time-keeping originated from the Babylonians and the Jews (the seven-day week in Genesis). The Ancient Romans, during the republic, went with eight days – including a shopping day where people would buy and sell things.

  • When the Roman emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion early in the 4th century AD, the seven‑day week was officially adopted.
  • The sundial (of course an effective instrument only when the sun shines) was refined by the Greeks and taken further by the Romans a few centuries later.
  • The Romans also used water clocks which they calibrated from a sundial and so they could measure time even when the sun was not shining, at night or on foggy days.

Known as a clepsydra, it uses a flow of water to measure time. Typically a container is filled with water, and the water is drained slowly and evenly out of the container – markings are used to show the passage of time. But the changing length of the day with the seasons in the Roman world made time measurement much more fluid than today: hours were originally calculated for daytime and based on a division of the day.

How did they tell time in the 1800s?

When the Standardization of Time Arrived in America How Did The Inventor Of The Clock Know What Time It Was iStock / PhotosbyAndy This story is from the Smithsonian’s new podcast, Sidedoor. Listen to the episode “Tech Yourself” below (scroll to 13:35 in the player) and subscribe for future episodes. It’s the 19 th Century. You have no phone, no watch, but what you do have is a very pressing appointment at noon, how do you tell what time it is? In the 1800s, the three main sources of determining the time were the clock at the center of your town, the railroads, and the sun, but it would not be uncommon for all three to tell you different times.

  • Every city or town had the ability to set its own time so 1:05 PM in your town could be 1:15 the next town over.
  • Railroads operated on their own set of timetables and not always the same ones.
  • Two trains on the same track could have two different times, which meant unsafe traveling conditions and collisions.

On November 18, 1883, the railroads of North America set a standard time for all trains to address the danger. Industrial America grew around the railroad time system. Factories operated on this standard time, developing punch clocks to monitor and schedule work.

  • Time became more regulated, managed to the second at the hands of technology and the clocks that set it.
  • The shift from an almost indeterminable time to the micromanagement we experience today happened gradually.
  • At first, towns would have their local time and their railroad time.
  • One bartender who claimed to adhere to solar time kept his bar open past 11 p.m.

(which was illegal at the time). When he was questioned about breaking the law, he stated that he had 6 minutes to close the bar according to the time that he followed. The court did not agree. Slowly, however, more and more cities abandoned their local time and followed the standard time set by the railroad system.

  • Thirty-five years after the railroad announced its time system, the federal government began to enforce a standard time throughout all of the United States.
  • Carlene Stephens, the curator who researches the cultural history of time at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History believes that, “The concept of time is something I think we as humans have invented and the idea of synchrony is almost as powerful as this whole business of existing in time.” Time is a reflection of human society, like the technology we invented to determine it.
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A clock does not only tell you the time now, but its ticks are an echo of the past and the evolution of how we understand time and technology is what propels us into the future. Get the latest on what’s happening At the Smithsonian in your inbox. Recommended Videos : When the Standardization of Time Arrived in America

Why is the hour 60 minutes?

Why are there 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in a day? Who decided on these time divisions? | Notes and Queries | Why are there 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in a day? Who decided on these time divisions?

THE DIVISION of the hour into 60 minutes and of the minute into 60 seconds comes from the Babylonians who used a sexagesimal (counting in 60s) system for mathematics and astronomy. They derived their number system from the Sumerians who were using it as early as 3500 BC. The use of 12 subdivisions for day and night, with 60 for hours and minutes, turns out to be much more useful than (say) 10 and 100 if you want to avoid having to use complicated notations for parts of a day. Twelve is divisible by two, three, four, six and 12 itself – whereas 10 has only three divisers – whole numbers that divide it a whole number of times. Sixty has 12 divisers and because 60 = 5 x 12 it combines the advantages of both 10 and 12. In fact both 12 and 60 share the property that they have more divisers than any number smaller than themselves. This doesn’t, of course, explain how this system spread throughout the world.

Phil Molyneux, London W2.

: Why are there 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in a day? Who decided on these time divisions? | Notes and Queries |

How did they tell time in the 1600s?

“Old Time the clock-setter.” -William Shakespeare, King John (1591-8) In the hustle and bustle of the modern world, it seems all too often our lives are dictated by the clock. We have alarm clocks to wake us up. We clock in at our jobs and clock out for breaks.

We set timers for cooking, exercise, and work. We carry cell phones and watches that can tell us the time anywhere in the world down to the second. Additionally, the concept of accurate time keeping has seeped into our vocabulary and the way we think. Phrases such as “in a minute” or “hold on a second” are commonplace.

When looking back at history it is easy to imagine that the 17th century world was devoid of such adherence to the clock, but that is only partially true. As we will explore, while the average person in the 17th century did not have access to the accuracy of modern time keeping, the world still had many methods and reasons for keeping time.

The first and most obvious method of timekeeping was the sun and moon. People have been marking the passage of time via the sun and moon for as long as there have been people. Long form timekeeping calendars for harvest and holidays most often revolved around the lunar cycles and seasons. Even lacking any specific instruments for measurement, the average 17th century person could roughly tell when it was noon by the sun being at its zenith.

Early navigation instruments such as the cross-staff and quadrant used the sun at noon to help calculate a ship’s latitude. Sundials and similar instruments had been in use since antiquity. Another method of timekeeping that would have been familiar to most of the Mayflower Pilgrims was the clock/bell tower.

  1. Many towns and cities in the 17th century had bell towers to note the passage of time.
  2. Some of these towers took it a step further and were in fact clock towers that could not only announce the time but tell it as well.
  3. These bells would be sounded when it was time for Church services, for the opening and closing of markets and for town and city curfews.

London, Leiden, and Amsterdam all had bell towers of various sorts while the Mayflower Pilgrims resided there. Many songs of the period mention bells indicating a time of day, such as this round by Thomas Ravenscroft: “And seest thou my cow today fowler, And seest thou my cow today fowler the bells ring in to Mattens, the bells ring in to Mattens.

Bim bome, bim bome, a bome, bome. Bim bome, bim bome a bome, bome.” Mattens in this case is referring to morning prayer service. Towers were not the only place that contained time announcing bells; most ships in the 17th century carried bells that were used for the same reason. On a ship, this bell was most often used to indicate the passage of time in order to keep watch.

Every half an hour the bell was struck and at 8 bells the watch turned over. In order to actually tell time for the watch another time keeping tool was used, the hour glass, or in this instance a half hour glass. Lastly, while expensive and fairly ornate, watches and personal clocks existed in the 17th century.

  1. During the early part of the century these watches were more jewelry than functioning timepieces as the jostling and jolting of the piece made keeping accurate time quite difficult.
  2. The watches themselves were quite intricate and beautiful and came in many forms from the mundane and simple to hand painted pieces of art.

When used to tell time, the watches only had the hour hand and some stuck a sound every hour much like their larger versions in the clock towers. Like any technology, as clock making advanced the use of personal watches to actually tell time accurately became plausible and by the mid to late century pocket watches as we think of them began to take shape.

Now that we have examined some of the more common methods of keeping time in 17th century England and the Netherlands, let us look at New Plymouth and the Mayflower Pilgrims. Firstly the Pilgrims were just as capable of seeing the sun in New England and marking time by its passing, as they were in England and the Netherlands.

Many of the times listed in primary sources mention noon or sunrise and sunset as a marker of time. For instance, while exploring Cape Cod, the author in Mourt’s Relation remarks “We went ranging up and down till the sun began to draw low”, Later on while describing town business the author states “About noon we met again about our public business, but we had scarce been an hour together, but Samoset came again” It is of particular interest that the author mentions the hour specifically as a way to denote the passage of time, showing the concept of hours as a unit of time measurement was not utterly foreign.

Lacking any bell towers Plymouth used different instruments in their place. Isaack de Rasieres observed the Plymouth Pilgrims “assemble by beat of drum” for church service on Sabbath. Another unconventional time keeping method was used on Cape Cod where one of the authors of Mourt’s Relation noted they ” kept a good watch with three sentinels all night, every one standing when his turn came, while five or six inches of match was burning.” Since match cord will burn at a consistent rate, it seems it was used in this instance as a way to tell time for the watch.

Lastly, at least one of the authors of Mourt’s Relation had an understanding of hours, and either had a watch or at least wrote and thought of time in this way. There are numerous mentions of specific hours in Mourt’s Relation including the explorations of Cape Cod when at “About ten o’clock we came into a deep valley” and then later on “The next day, about eleven o’clock, our shallop came to us and we shipped ourselves”.

There are many other examples of times given during the Cape Cod explorations and then the landing at Plymouth. Later when describing the first voyage made to visit Massasoit there are again many specific hours given including: “Thither we came about three o’clock after noon” and “About one o’clock, Massasoit brought two fishes that he had shot” There are also times given at night such as when “About two o’clock in the morning arose a great storm of wind, rain, lightning, and thunder” It is important to note that all of these hours are given as “about” which emphasizes the difficulty of early time pieces to keep overly accurate time.

Likewise since clock faces did not display minute hands until later in history, these times are all given on the hour. These are just some of the many examples of time keeping in the 17th century. We can not say with any certainty if any of the Mayflower Pilgrims brought a watch or clock with them, but the primary sources make it clear that at least some thought of time passing in hours and most would have been familiar with such things in England and the Netherlands.

How did they tell time in the 1500s?

During the Middle Ages, people used a combination of water clocks, sun dials, and candle clocks to tell time though none of those could tell time to the minute.

Did humans invent time?

Your alarm clock wakes you up. You have to get to the office by 9. This weekend, you’ll take the 7:30 flight to Chicago. Your life revolves around time, but you probably don’t ponder it all that much. And why would you? It seems like a force of nature. But it wasn’t always that way.

“If we look at the late 19th century, we see something happening which very much would suggest that. in fact, people had to come to create the concept of time as we know it now.” Yes, time – or our modern conception of it – was invented. And it was invented pretty recently. That’s according to Vanessa Ogle, an Assistant Professor of History at UPenn and author of The Global Transformation of Time: 1870-1950,

She says that before the late 19th century, time wasn’t that big a deal. Accurate time was important for sailors and some businesspeople, but, for most of our ancestors (who made their living by working the land), a general sense of the day and the seasons was enough to get by.

This all changed with the Industrial Revolution, and new technologies like the railroad and telegraph, which made the world increasingly connected. Without accurate, globalized time, though, a burgeoning era of commerce and travel could have faced some serious roadblocks. Ogle notes that “roughly until the 1880s in the United States, you had up to 75 different railway times in use In Chicago there were three times being used, in Kansas City there were five, and in St.

Louis there were six.” If you were a statesman or businessperson, this was an untenable situation. So, with conferences and diplomatic meetings, a group of scientists and thinkers introduced the concept of time zones and uniform time. The world took a while to come around to the concept, ( there were even riots in Bombay ).

And in Ogle’s view it wasn’t until the rise of air travel post-WWII when globalized time finally became fully accepted. But eventually, standardized time became such an important part of everyone’s lives that our society is almost unimaginable without it. Not that it doesn’t have some drawbacks. ” meant, for instance, would have to get up while it was still dark and commute to work in the darkness.

And that, even in the late 19th century, was something that really bothered a lot of people.”

How did ancient Egypt tell time?

Telling Time in Ancient Egypt Janice Kamrin Department of Egyptian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art February 2017 A hallmark of almost every known culture is some system to track the passing of time. It is thought that, like most agricultural societies, the ancient Egyptians originally organized their calendar according to the cycles of the moon and the agricultural seasons ().

  • Most scholars agree that the Egyptian day began at dawn, before the rising of the sun, rather than sunrise.
  • The daily cycle was divided into twenty-four hours: twelve hours of the day and twelve hours of the night, the latter apparently reckoned based on the movement of groups of stars (“decans”) across the night sky.

Beginning in the New Kingdom (ca.1500 B.C.), there is evidence that sundials, shadow clocks (), and water clocks () were used to measure the passing of the hours. There is no evidence that the Egyptians tracked minutes or seconds, although there are general terms for time segments shorter than an hour.

  • The month was organized into three weeks of ten days each, with the start of the lunar month marked by the disappearance of the waning moon.
  • By at least the middle of the (ca.2450 B.C.), and quite possibly several centuries earlier, the Egyptians had developed a “civil” calendar composed of twelve months of thirty days each (360 days), divided into three seasons—Inundation ( Akhet ), Emergence ( Peret ), and Harvest ( Shemu )—of four months each, with five epagomenal days (days outside the regular months) added at the end of the year.

Official dates were expressed according to this system, as a specific day within a specific month of a season (e.g., Day 15, Month 3 of the Inundation Season). At least as early as the (ca.2030–1650 B.C.), the months had alternative names () that seem to echo some sort of lunar reckoning.

It is likely that New Year’s Day () originally was associated with the heliacal rising of the brightest star in the night sky, Sopdet (also known by its Greek name of Sothis or Latin name of Sirius). In Egypt, this star reemerged after a seventy-day sojourn beneath the horizon at about the same time as the first signs of the annual Nile flood that brought the life-giving waters down from the highlands of Ethiopia.

The correlation between Sopdet and the New Year is based in part on an ancient text (from ca.2500 B.C.) that reads: “It is Sopdet, your daughter whom you love, in this her name as Year”; an inscription from the that mentions the rising of Isis-Sopdet on the morning of New Year’s Day (ca.1250 B.C.); and a reference to Isis-Sopdet from the much later temple at Dendera (late first millennium B.C.), which says specifically that the years are “reckoned from her shining forth.” Since a true astronomical year has 365.25+ days, the Egyptian civil calendar fell back by a quarter day or so each year.

This meant that the rising of Sopdet/Sothis and the seasons of this calendar did not correspond to the actual agricultural seasons for much of Egyptian history. Scholars have attempted to use this disconnect, especially between the actual Sothic rise and New Year’s Day in the civil calendar, which correspond only once every 1,460 years, to calculate when the civil system was first established, but no agreement on this point has yet been reached.

Lunar-based month names, the importance of the heliacal rising of Sothis, the fact that some Egyptian festivals were scheduled according to the lunar cycle rather than tied to specific days in the civil calendar, and some double dates, have led scholars to posit an early luni-stellar calendar that would have operated alongside the civil calendar.

This presumably would have been corrected regularly (perhaps by adding a thirteenth month or an extra epagomenal day every several years) to stay in step with the actual astronomical year (). Although the exact format changes over time, years were for the most part counted according to the reign of a specific ruler (; ).

In Dynasty 1 (ca.3100 B.C.), each civil year within a reign was identified by important events such as the founding of a temple or the installation of a cult statue, a practice that lasted well into the (ca.2649–2130 B.C.). It is also during Dynasty 1 that the germ of a system to number the years by reign appears, in a record of “the first occasion of the Djet (“eternity”)-festival,” probably referring to the first time this festival had been celebrated during the reign of King Djer.

  1. By late Dynasty 2 (ca.2900 B.C.), regnal years were being labeled according to the apparently of the country’s mineral, animal, and/or agricultural assets.
  2. This soon seems to have become the key event by which years were counted: through to the end of the (ca.2130 B.C.), years can be named as either renpet zep N (Year of the Nth Counting) or renpet em-khat zep N (Year after the Nth Counting).

Scholars long assumed that these counts were always biennial, and that minimum reign lengths for monarchs could be estimated by doubling the highest attested census. However, recent scholarship has begun to question this construct and to suggest alternatives such as biennial counts that gradually became annual; counts carried out as needed to raise funds for government projects; or counts carried out in years during which a thirteenth month was added to the theoretical luni-solar calendar.

It seems likely that annual counts became the rule by Dynasty 6 (ca.2323–2150 B.C.), but overall, this question remains open. At some point, most likely during the First Intermediate Period (ca.2130–2030 B.C.), years began to be numbered according to each king’s tenure on the throne. During the (ca.2030–1650 B.C.), these years were counted from one New Year’s Day to the next; the period of time between the new king’s coronation and Day 1 of Month 1 may have been counted as his Year 1, but alternatively may have been left to his predecessor.

In the (ca.1550–1070 B.C.), the regnal count began when the new king took the throne, and years were calculated from one anniversary of the coronation to the next () all according to the civil calendar. It is likely that the same system pertained during the (ca.1070–664 B.C.).

During the (ca.664–332 B.C.), the second option outlined as a possibility for the was in use: the king’s Year 1 was counted from coronation to New Year’s Day, and his Year 2 began with the new year, so that a Year 1 could last anywhere from a week to almost a year. Also extremely important in the ancient Egyptian conception of the world was their larger attitude toward time.

Inscriptions refer to two kinds of eternity. Linear time, or djet, associated with the funerary god Osiris (), had a beginning and would have an end, albeit in the infinitely far future. Neheh, cyclical time, was tied to the passage of the sun through the sky during the day and the Netherworld during the night ().

  • Ideally, an Egyptian who had lived according to the precepts of maat by supporting and maintaining the proper order of a just cosmos, and who had been accorded a proper burial, would live forever ( djet ) and ever ( neheh ).
  • Amrin, Janice.
  • Telling Time in Ancient Egypt.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History,
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New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (February 2017) Clagett, Marshall.1995. Ancient Egyptian science. a source book Volume II, Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society. Spalinger, Anthony P., 2001.

Kamrin, Janice.”.” (March 2015)

Why are all clocks set to 10 10?

According to the New York Times, the main reason is quite simple and obvious: aesthetics. There are a number of visual advantages to having the hands set at the 10:10 positions. The hands are not overlapping, so they’re fully and clearly visible and their styling can be admired.

How was the concept of time created?

How was time invented, and why? – Humans invented clocks from the daily motion of the Sun. The Egyptians used a water clock in the 16th century BC. Then the ancient Romans made the first clock by measuring water flowing into a container. Later sand was used in an hourglass.

When pendulum clocks were invented, they were accurate to one minute. In 1927 a quartz clock was accurate to one second. The word “time” represents the clock’s units of seconds, minutes, and hours. Clocks were invented to measure the motion of the sun, water, and sand. The Earth’s motion became the standard of time when humans found out that the Earth rotates.

The display on a clock shows time, so the time keeps track of our daily activities. Clocks convert the motion into time because the clock’s display corresponds to Earth’s rotational motion. Calendars are timekeeping tools to measure our history and plan future events.

What exact time was the clock invented?

The first mechanical clocks were invented in Europe around the start of the 14th century and were the standard timekeeping device until the pendulum clock was invented in 1656. There were many components that came together over time to give us the modern-day timekeeping pieces of today.

How did Romans tell time?

Three main types of timepieces used in ancient Roman times were the sundial, klepsydra, and obelisk.25 Inspired by the Greeks and Egyptians, these early clocks relied upon either the sun or water.26 Sundials and obelisks depend on the sun, but time still had an impact on the Roman people on cloudy days and at night.

Why did humans start telling time?

How did people tell time before clocks? Beginning in prehistoric days, humankind started reading the elements around them in order to measure time. Ancient humans used the power of simple observation, deductive reasoning, and the earth itself to complete their time tracking goals.

These observations were all about reading the stars high up in the heavens, the changes in the seasons, and also by the presence of day and night. Humans learned to come up with very primitive methods to determine time. Telling time made it possible for prehistoric man to be able to plan any type of nomadic activity, any farming, sacred kind of feasts, or anything else that was important to him.

One of the earliest of all devices to tell time was the sundial. The sundial is looked on as being a form of sun-powered clock. Ancient civilizations such as the Sumerians did have this knowledge, but when the culture died, knowledge was lost along with many other aspects of the civilization unfortunately.

  • One thing that is known is this.
  • It was the ancient Egyptians who did come up with a form of system to divide the day up into parts.
  • These parts were a whole lot like hours in description.
  • The Egyptians constructed obelisks, which were four-sided and well tapered monuments, and they were geographically located in certain places.

These obelisks were believed to have been constructed around 3500 BC and a shadow would be cast by the obelisk as the sun made it’s way across the sky. This obelisk would be marked out in certain sections to see the two halves of the day. There was another more advanced shadow clock or sundial in use by the ancient Egyptians around 1500 BC.

This shadow clock or sundial permitted one to measure the passage of hours within a day. Another very early form of clock to tell the time was the water clock. The water clock was used by the ancient Greeks. It is considered to be one of the earliest forms of timekeeping devices that didn’t take use the observance of the celestial bodies to help calculate the passage of time.

It is believed that the ancient Greeks started using these early timekeeping devices around 325 BC. These clocks were mainly used to determine the hours of nighttime, but they may also have been used for daylight hours as well. The hourglass is another form of early timekeeping device that was used in ancient times.

The hourglass was constructed from two separate glass bulbs that were rounded. These two glass bulbs were connected by a neck of narrow glass that was situated between the bulbs. This hourglass contained particles of sand within it, and when it was turned upside down, a measured amount of sand particles would drop down from the top part of the glass to the bottom part of the glass.

The hourglass of ancient times is said to be the early predecessor for the egg timer of modern times. Telling time before clocks did take place. It was just done in a different way from how it is done today. Égard Watches invites you to check out our that do more than tell the time, they capture moments in time.

How did we decide on 24 hours?

Why are there 24 hours in a day? › Ask an Expert (ABC Science) We divide the day into 24 hours, one hour into 60 minutes and one minute into 60 seconds. What other comparably accurate methods have been used throughout history? By Kylie Andrews While each country has (in broad terms) historically had distinct measurements for distance, weights etc the method of splitting the day into 24 hours, one hour into 60 mins and one minute into 60 seconds seems to be the only one in use, and indeed to me the only one I know of.

This non-metric measurement of time is far from ideal, but what other comparably accurate methods have been used historically? “The origin of our time system of 24 hours in a day with each hour subdivided into 60 minutes and then 60 seconds is complex and interesting,” says Dr Nick Lomb, consultant curator of astronomy, from the,

Our 24-hour day comes from the ancient Egyptians who divided day-time into 10 hours they measured with devices such as shadow clocks, and added a twilight hour at the beginning and another one at the end of the day-time, says Lomb. “Night-time was divided in 12 hours, based on the observations of stars.

  • In the Egyptian system, the length of the day-time and night-time hours were unequal and varied with the seasons.
  • “In summer, day-time hours were longer than night-time hours while in winter the hour lengths were the other around,” says Lomb.

Did hours exist before clocks?

Counting from dawn – In ancient and medieval cultures, the counting of hours generally started with sunrise. Before the widespread use of artificial light, societies were more concerned with the division between night and day, and daily routines often began when light was sufficient.

How did medieval people count time?

How did people in the Middle Ages tell time? : originally appeared on Quora : The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, Answer by Tim O’Neill, M.A. in Medieval Literature and has studied most aspects of the period for many years. How Did The Inventor Of The Clock Know What Time It Was Most peasants or farmers would not have had a great need to know precisely what hour it was, and would have divided their day according to the passage of the sun. Timekeeping was more necessary for monastic communities, which maintained the Liturgy of the Hours — a daily cycle of communal prayer that required them to come together at seven set times each day. These were:

Matins — late at night or at midnightLauds — at 3 a.m. or at dawnPrime — around 6 a.m.Tierce — around 9 a.m.Sext — at middayNone — around 3 p.m.Vespers — around 6 p.m. or after dinnerCompline — around 9 p.m. or before bed

Larger monasteries and the chapter houses of cathedrals would have rung bells to summon the community to these prayers, and peasants and farmers living nearby would have had their day divided up by the ringing of these bells. These monastic communities would have kept track of the time to summon the monks to these prayers by various means: well-trained body clocks from years of practice, water clocks, sundials, and the use of an astrolabe or quadrant to take readings from the sun or stars to calculate the time.

All of these techniques were cumbersome and not exactly foolproof, so there was an incentive to find a way to mechanize time-keeping. Experiments with gearing systems and weights led to the invention of the foliot escapement and the first truly mechanical clock sometime in the last decades of the Thirteenth Century.

It is likely, but not certain, that this breakthrough happened in a monastic environment, but the new machines quickly spread through the Medieval world. By the mid-Fourteenth Century, most towns had at least one clock, because they could be used to regulate working hours and allowed craftsmen to charge for their labor by the hour.

  1. For the first time, people were able to measure time precisely enough to be able to make time itself a commodity.
  2. These new medieval clocks developed very quickly in sophistication.
  3. Firstly, they were miniaturized very rapidly — they went from huge “mainframe” sized machines to small semi-portable “desktop” versions in about the same time that modern computers made the same transition.

Secondly, they quickly went from machines that simply told the time to ones that performed quite complex calculations. Working in the 1320s, the abbot of St. Albans, the scholar and astronomer Richard of Wallingford, built an astronomical clock that mapped the movements of the sun, moon, and stars in real time, predicted eclipses, gave the phase of the moon, and indicated high and low tides in London, as well as telling the time and striking the hours.

  1. It took eight and a half years to perform its full cycle of calculations and was by far the most complex machine built up to that point.
  2. So in the Middle Ages, people went from a very crude sense of time to a revolution in their thinking and in the way that they measured time.
  3. The invention of the mechanical clock was one of the Medieval world’s most remarkable legacies for later ages and inventions like Wallingford’s machine were the ancestors of later calculating machines and of modern computers.

More questions on Quora :

How did they tell time in the Bible?

Time Keeping Methods – In a world without watches, the Jews and Romans used sundials and water clocks to keep track of the hours. Sundials were very popular and easy to use. Once properly adjusted, the sundial would cast a shadow indicating the hour of the day based on the position of the sun in the sky.

How did the Babylonians tell time?

Background Information – The Babylonians, who lived 5000 years ago in today’s Iraq southern region, were the first to record astronomical phenomena that were periodic, which means that they repeat. Driven by a huge curiosity, they made observations over long periods of time of the Moon, planets and the stars, and were also the first to apply mathematics to predict their motions.

To better measure the position and movement of the celestial bodies, the Babylonians developed instruments, some of them to be used by night, others to be used during day time. This allowed them to perform time measurements. Babylonians observed the periodic movement of the Sun and constructed the Sundial, which was the first version of a Wall clock or a hand watch.

Using the Sundial the Babylonians divided the day into twenty-four hours. From there on we know what time it is and organise daily life together.

How did they tell time in the 1400s?

As I am typing these words, my clock reads 9:34 p.m. Like most modern humans, when I want to know the time, I can check my laptop, cell phone, or (God forbid) one of those archaic orbs on the wall with an hour and a minute hand. It wasn’t until I began penning medieval fiction that I realized how little I knew about the history of time measurement and what inventions have made it so precise today.

The minute, as a measurement of time, didn’t exist.

How Did The Inventor Of The Clock Know What Time It Was During the Middle Ages, people used a combination of water clocks, sun dials, and candle clocks to tell time though none of those could tell time to the minute. While the best water clocks told time to the quarter hour, it wasn’t until the wide use and improvement of mechanical clocks that people could tell time to the minute.

Even though the minute hand may have existed as early as the late 15th century, Jost Burgieven (pictured left) is credited with inventing it in 1577. Still, it took over a century for the technology to spread as the minute hand wasn’t widely added to clocks until the 1680s.2. For most of the Middle Ages, clocks rang seven or eight times in a day, not twenty-four.

Since most Christian monks adhered to a tight schedule of work and prayer, they were some of the first timekeepers in Medieval Europe. For most of the Medieval period, a 24 hour day was divided into eight liturgical designations: Vigils (currently called Matins and was also referred to as Nocturns), Matins (currently called Lauds), Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline.* Strangely, the only mention of the bells ringing for Vigils that I have found comes from David Ewing Duncan. How Did The Inventor Of The Clock Know What Time It Was Historian Robert Ekirch considers this engraving from 1595 to be evidence of segmented sleep during the Renaissance. By the end of the Middle Ages, wide use and improvements in mechanical clocks changed the way people kept time. I’ll discuss that in another section.

*It’s worth noting that most cities’ bells rang for other events, announcing the opening of markets, beginning of curfews, and start of special holidays. **Whether Medieval laymen slept through the entire night is a hot topic. In his book, At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, historian Roger Ekirch references over five hundred documents that suggest laymen went to bed around 9 p.m., slept for 3 to 4 hours, got up for 1 to 2 hours for prayer and possibly sex, and then went back to sleep until Prime.

But even Ekirch recognizes that not all people followed the same sleeping pattern as does historian Jean Verdon. Historians refer to this sleep pattern as segmented sleep.3. The length of an hour depended on the time of year and where you lived. How Did The Inventor Of The Clock Know What Time It Was This sculpture on the side of Chartres Cathedral shows an angel carrying a sundial, a device used to tell time during the Middle Ages. For most of the Middle Ages, the time between sunrise and sunset was divided into twelve equal portions just like it was in ancient Rome.

The time from sunset to sunrise was also divided into twelve equal segments. This worked well on the equinoxes when the length of a daytime hour equaled a nighttime hour, but by the 2nd century b.c.e., people recognized how confusing this could be to travelers during the winter and summer months. Imagine living in Oslo, Norway during the Middle Ages.

With only approximately 6 hours of sunlight on Christmas that would make a daylight hour for them only 30 minutes long. Now travel to Naples, Italy where they have over nine hours of sunlight. A daylight hour for them on Christmas would last about 50 minutes.

Ian Mortimer sheds light on how the medieval hours related to modern time-telling in his book The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England, Mortimer says most people rose for the Prime bells, which rang at dawn. They struck for the 3rd hour of the day at Terce (mid-morning), the 6th hour at Sext (noon), again for the 9th hour at None (mid-afternoon) and once more for the 12th hour at Compline (a little after sunset).

The chart below shows how bells of London would ring at different times depending on the season.

Table 1: Canonical bells in 12th Century London
Equinox Midwinter Midsummer
Matins 5:00 a.m. 6:40 a.m. 2:30 a.m.
Prime 6:00 a.m. 8:00 a.m. 3:40 a.m.
Terce 8:30 a.m. 9:40 a.m. 7:00 a.m.
Sext 12:30 p.m. 12:20 p.m. 12:20 p.m.
None 2:30 p.m. 1:40 p.m. 3:00 p.m.
Vespers 5:00 p.m. 3:00 p.m. 7:00 p.m.
(Sunset) (6:00 p.m.) (3:50 p.m.) (8:20 p.m.)
Compline 7-8:00 p.m. 5-6:00 p.m. 9:30 p.m.


img class=’aligncenter wp-image-189362 size-full’ src=’’ alt=’How Did The Inventor Of The Clock Know What Time It Was’ /> 4. You Couldn’t Waste Time, and Time Couldn’t Cost You Money. People living in the Middle Ages believed time belonged to God. Therefore, it wasn’t theirs to waste. The question arose in the 13 th century on whether merchants and craftsman could charge fees for unsettled debts (i.e. In 1320, Dante Alighieri (pictured left) referred to a clock that struck the hours in his work, The Divine Comedy, It is considered the first literary reference to that type of clock. We know that by the 1350s this technology spread to England since King Edward III used them in his palaces.

By the end of the 14th century, mechanical clocks could be found in several cathedrals and palaces throughout England. The clocks didn’t show time with an hour hand but struck a bell to signify the time. Since mechanical clocks relied on mechanisms rather than sunlight to tell time, the hours became the same length year round.

The reliance on clock time was not immediate and people referred to time in two ways: solar time and time of the clock. The latter of which was later shortened to the phrase o’ clock, which we still use today. How Did The Inventor Of The Clock Know What Time It Was Andrea Cefalo is a Medieval fiction author and history blogger, Her debut novel The Fairytale Keeper, was a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. The sequel– The Countess’s Captive— was published earlier this year. She is currently working on the third book in her series.

How did Romans tell time?

Three main types of timepieces used in ancient Roman times were the sundial, klepsydra, and obelisk.25 Inspired by the Greeks and Egyptians, these early clocks relied upon either the sun or water.26 Sundials and obelisks depend on the sun, but time still had an impact on the Roman people on cloudy days and at night.

How did ancient Greeks tell time?

Ancient Greek society did not have clocks like we do today. Instead, they used clepsydras, or water clocks, to time important events.