Special Sub-Topic: It was the Best of Time(piece)s...
|It was the best of prehistoric time(piece)s.
Some prehistoric peoples needed to keep track of the seasons to decide when to plant crops. According to Gerald S. Hawkins, author of "Stonehenge Decoded", the monument on Salisbury Plain was constructed as a lunar and solar calendar.
What innovative technology did he use to test his hypothesis that the alignment of the stones had celestial significance?|
Computer. In 1965, when Hawkins' book was published, the use of computing technology was nowhere near as ubiquitous as it is now. His basic method was to feed information about the positions of the 165 stones which make up the monument and the position of various celestial bodies into the Harvard-Smithsonian IBM 704 computer and see if there were any significant alignments. Whilst the alignment of the midsummer sunrise over the Heel Stone was well-known, many of the other alignments he found were unexpected. Recently, it has been speculated that the more important alignments were those of the midwinter sunrise which would announce the arrival of longer days and the coming of Spring indicating when crops could be planted.
|It was the best of Ancient Egyptian time(piece)s.
The Ancient Egyptians were the first people to leave a record of the technologies they used to divide up the day. When the Sun was visible, shadows were used to indicate the passage of time. At night, the apparent movement of the stars in relation to the Pole Star could be used instead.
What was the name of the device which was used to indicate the passage of time during the night?|
Merkhet. The merkhet was essentially a plumb line and was used in conjunction with a sighting stick with a vertical slit in the top. For determining the passage of time at night, the user would line up the Pole Star with two merkhets and this would give a "north-south meridian" (a line of longitude). Stars appear to revolve around the Pole Star each 24 hours so observing when particular stars crossed this meridian would indicate the passage of time.
Obelisks, sundials and hemicycles were all instruments which used the changes in the position of shadows to show the passage of time.
|It was the best of Chinese time(pieces).
Some of the earliest clocks (devices which depend on a regular action to mark off equal amounts of time) used the flow of water into or out of a vessel to measure time. There is evidence that these were in use in China in the 6th century BCE.
What name, literally "water thief", is used for these clocks?|
Clepsydra. At its simplest, a clepsydra (sometimes clepshydra) was a pot with a hole at the base through which the water could drip. The inside of the pot would have marks to indicate how much time had passed. Later developments regulated the flow of water into a pot which was similarly marked. In China, they were refined to take account of evaporation, the effect of temperature on water flow and the reducing pressure head as the tanks emptied.
A sufferer from kleptomania feels compelled to take things which do not belong to them. The "hydraulis" was a Roman water-powered organ. A chronometer is a very accurate timepiece.
|It was the best of Medieval time(piece)s.
In Europe, one of the main drivers for the development of more accurate clocks was the need for monks to be able to pray at the designated hours. The first mechanical clocks were made in monasteries but by the early part of the 14th Century, public clocks began to appear elsewhere, on towers, churches, town halls and palaces.
Which country was the first to make use of public mechanical clocks?|
Italy. Italy, as the home of Roman Catholicism, had a strong monastic tradition but, at the same time, its city states, such as Venice and Genoa, were important trading centres and practices were growing up which involved penalties if time constraints were not met, for example, the calculation of interest on overdue debts. The early mechanical clocks did not merely mark the hours; they could keep track of weeks, months, years and various astronomical cycles. It was during this period that the idea of hours of equal length throughout the year became established - hitherto an hour (a twenty fourth of a day) in summer was longer in measured time than an hour in winter.
The earliest public clocks were in Orvieto (1307), Modena, Parma, Milan and Padua but by the end of the century the idea had spread to many other countries. For the technical, these clocks were weight-driven and had a "verge-and-foliot escapement", basically a rod which engaged with a toothed gear.
|It was the best of 16th century portable time(pieces).
The inventor often credited with the first clocks small enough to be carried, either on a neck chain or in a pocket, is Peter Henlein, a locksmith from Nuremberg in Germany.
Which component was the key to his success?|
Spring. Although there is some controversy about whether Henlein made the first portable timepiece, there is no doubt that he was making them in the early part of the 16th century and several examples survive. Tightly-wound springs would have been familiar to him as lock components but his small clocks could run for 40 hours instead of the then usual 12 or 13 which meant they did not have to be wound twice a day. Clocks of the time had a single hand to mark the hours and as the spring did not unwind at a constant rate, were not very accurate.
The mainspring is wound around a small post called an arbor to which it is attached. The clock is wound by turning the arbor which is attached to a ratchet and as the spring unwinds the arbor turns in the opposite direction and moves the hand.
|It was the best of 17th century time(piece)s.
Galileo Galilei had studied the motion of the pendulum several years before, but which Dutch scientist built the first clock using the principle of regular oscillation in 1656?|
Christiaan Huygens. Huygens' first pendulum clock reduced the daily error in timekeeping to less than a minute a day; his later clocks were accurate to within 10 seconds a day, a great improvement. He later invented the balance wheel and spring mechanism which when incorporated into portable timepieces made them accurate to 10 minutes a day. This mechanism is still used in some wristwatches today.
van Leewenhoek is known for his contribution to microscopy; Frederik de Wit was a cartographer and Jan Leeghwater was an engineer involved in land reclamation projects in the Netherlands. All were contemporaries of Huygens and prominent in the 17th century "Dutch Golden Age".
|It was the best of 18th century time(piece)s.
In her 1995 book "Longitude", Dava Sobel told the story of the inventor of the marine chronometer, the highly accurate timepiece which enabled sailors to establish their longitude and location on the high seas.
What was his name? |
John Harrison. Accurate calculation of longitude at sea depends on knowing the exact time both on board ship (usually by sighting the sun at noon) and at a known longitude. To do this two clocks would be needed, one to keep the time at the known longitude and another for local time. The difference between the two could be converted into longitude using the relationship that 4 minutes time difference is equivalent to 1 degree of longitude. The accuracy of clocks of the time was affected by temperature, the Earth's varying magnetic field, pressure changes and the motion of the ship. Harrison produced his marine chronometer in response to a competition but it took him about 40 years of struggle and the intervention of King George III before his work was finally recognised and rewarded. He achieved an accuracy of a third of a second per day.
Henry Sully was a French clockmaker whose work inspired Harrison. Nevil Maskelyne was the Astronomer Royal who put difficulties in Harrison's way. James Cook took one of Harrison's chronometers on his later voyages.
|It was the best of 19th century time(piece)s.
Until the 19th century, time was very much a local matter, with each town or city setting noon when the Sun was at its highest position in the sky at that location.
In the UK, which industry was at the forefront of the move to change to a standard time across a whole region or country?|
Railway industry. The railways ran to published timetables but the inconsistencies in local timekeeping caused problems and in 1840, the Great Western Railway decided to operate using a standard time, actually Greenwich Mean Time. Within a couple of years other railway companies followed suit and the public clocks at stations showed "railway time" which could be anything up to 20 minutes adrift of the local mean time (or an hour in the US). Other countries with railway networks, such as India, the US and Canada, followed suit and by the end of the century, most towns and cities had abandoned local time and adopted the railway time although the two systems co-existed in some areas.
|It was the best of early 20th century time(piece)s.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, even though mass-produced wristwatches were worn by women, the pocket watch was still the timepiece of choice for men. However, in 1904, a prestigious jeweller was asked to create a wristwatch for Alberto Santos Dumont, the Brazilian aviator.
Who was the jeweller?
Louis Cartier. Alberto Santos Dumont needed to be able to tell the time without fumbling in his pocket and taking his concentration away from the intricacies of flight. Cartier produced the "Santos" wristwatch for men and went into production using components supplied by Edmond Jaeger. The firm of Patek Philippe had made the first wristwatch in 1868. Wristwatches were common among the soldiers in the trenches of the First World War and were also popularised by the film star Rudolph Valentino in the 1920s. Peter Fabergé was known for the jewelled eggs he made for the Russian court.
|It was the best of 20th century time(piece)s.
The first battery-powered electric watch was made in 1957 and ultimately led to wristwatches with quartz movements.
Which company unveiled the world's first wristwatch with a quartz movement on Christmas Day 1969?|
Seiko. The Hamilton Watch Co of Pennsylvania had been the first to produce an electric watch. Bulova's Accutron watch of 1960, which was linked with the Mercury and Apollo space programmes, spurred traditional Swiss watchmakers such as Longines into developing a quartz movement small enough to put into a watchcase. However, it was the Japanese firm Seiko which brought the first quartz movement wristwatch to the market; it was withdrawn with only 100 sold due to technical issues but the future was clear. The first digital display watch was made by the Hamilton Watch Co in 1972.
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