A trip through time - Keeping Time - Clocks
How many hours are there in a day?
It was the Egyptians who first answered “24" to that question, thereby beginning a long and lasting trend that we still follow today. The Egyptian day was composed of twelve night hours, ten day hours, and two twilight hours, one right before the sun came up and one right after the sun went down.
The Egyptians were only one of many ancient peoples, including the Babylonians, Chinese, Greeks, and Romans, who developed a sundial for use in counting hours. Using this as a foundation, water clocks and sand clocks soon followed.
Along with each new time-measuring device came a surge of interest in measuring time more accurately until eventually the first mechanical clock that needed neither water nor sand was constructed. In the sixteenth century, Galileo Galilei did a lot of work with pendulums, and John Harrison spent nearly his entire life trying to construct a clock that could help sailors determine longitude.
In 1665, the invention of the hairspring led to an increase in the accuracy of small timepieces. Automatic winding timepieces were designed in 1770 and by the early 1900’s, watches that were worn on the wrist, were the ultimate accessory. Novelty watches were also the fashion, with Walt Disney’s “Mickey Mouse” making his debut in 1934, pointing out hours and minutes.
By 1952, the first digital watch was manufactured. And today, modern day watches allow you to do just about anything including monitoring your heart rate, watching TV and connecting to the internet all the while doing what they were originally intended to do: keep accurate time.
All of these developments demonstrate man's continuing interest in time and his desire to measure and record it accurately. The importance of the clock stems from its ability to help humans keep track of time, a commodity that is too precious to waste.
- Burns, Marilyn. This Book Is About Time. NY: Yolla Bolly, 1978.