Inventions that changed the Course of History: The Clock


The invention of clocks, have had a tremendous impact on history. Anything that is scheduled require knowledge of time in order to work, countless scientific experiments required a stopwatch, and so on and so forth. The clock has helped keep everything organized.

One of the very early attempts to measure time was the Sundial Clock. It simply consisted of a vertical shaft casting a shadow opposite the direction of the Sun. A person could then read the time based on the orientation of the shadow. The design was certainly flawed because it required sunlight to function; hence, it was rendered useless whenever the weather was overcast or the Sun had set. The ancients needed a different design, one that overcame the problems of the sundial, which meant that the search had begun for a device that did not depend on celestial bodies.

The Clepsydra was one of the successful attempts to replace the Sundial Clock. The theory was based on the fact that water in a bowl would flow through an opening at a reasonably steady pace. Another form of the Clepsydra is the Hour Glass which simply replaced the water with sand. In the 900s CE, new ideas for improving the accuracy of timepieces came to fruition. Some of the less practical solutions were candles and lamps that burned at a predictable rate.

The most practical recorded type of clock to have existed in the 18th century was driven by falling weights. Although the device was little better than the Clepsydra in terms of accuracy, it could be made to fit within smaller dimensions. Coiled springs had similar effects to falling weights but required an even smaller area. The methods for using falling weights improved slowly over time without any major addition until the invention of the escapement by Henry de Vick around the 1360s. The escapement is a device that uses a continuously rotating gear to create an oscillating motion, which in the case of a clock, would then be used to measure time. The development of clocks that utilized oscillation allowed for an unprecedented leap in accuracy after the next great development: the pendulum.

The pendulum, operates on a simple concept, is defined as a swinging weight that can be used to measure time. In the modern age, physics has proven that a pendulum will take the same time to swing from the left to the right regardless of the angle of the beginning position. The invention of the pendulum very rapidly inspired many modifications and upgrades to the clock design which eventually led to the mechanical clock that we know today.

Clocks have been impacted by history and have impacted history. Einstein conceptualized the theory of relativity while riding away from a clock tower. However, the clock has never been a driving force of society; instead, it has been developed independently of the culture and then scientists, businesses, and average citizens have always found a need to utilize the most accurate timepiece to the full potential.


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