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History of Wall Clocks

Updated on January 24, 2011

Clocks are interesting devices, they are made in many different ways, from mechanical, to digital, and atomic. I will explain how each type of clock is different, how it keeps time, and why this method it used over others.


First lets look at how clocks came to be. The first clocks had been Shadow clocks made first by the Egyptians and Sundials made by the Greeks as well as many others. They used this to mark the hours of the day. Simply by using the shadow the sun cast on the clock would indicate the proximate time. This of course only worked to the nearest hour. Another big flaw in these types of sun powered clocks is in it self, just that. They do not work at night!

The next clock to be invented was the Clepsydra, also known as a water clock. Using a very large bucket and filling it with water, a tiny hole was cut in the bottom the let water pass out. Every hour was marked with a line as it passed. Once this was done, the clock could be set and the time could be kept. Over time, a flaw was found in this clock as well. Water flows at different speeds depending on the temperature. It would freeze in the cold, as well as evaporate when it was hot. Then there was a solution, the Hourglass, or Sand clock was created.

Mechanical clocks came into play using a weight that would fall slowly, turning the hands of the clocks. These of course could only be built in tall towers, since the weights needed to fall great distances in order to keep time for long periods. These clocks usually only lost 2 hours a day, that was really good for the time they had been used in. Some of those clocks are still working today, due to how well they had been made. Two examples would be in England, the oldest clock built in 1386 as well as in France, a clock built in 1389.

The next big jump in clocks would be the pendulum in 1581 by Galileo. He discovered that even though the clock would eventually run out of energy, the clock would keep accurate time up to that point, and if the pendulum was reset before then, the clock would stay accurate till the pendulum was not reset. Lots of people love this kind of clock and still use it today.

A problem arose keeping time out at sea, traveling North and South sailors could use the north star to tell where they where they are, but going East to West was a different story. In 1707 this problem became more apparent when four ships crashed killing thousands. The British  government offered twenty thousand pounds to the one who could build a clock that could keep time accurately at sea so no more lives would be lost.

A man by the name of John Harrison found out about the contest in 1728 and started working on a clock. After thirty-three years and building three enormous clocks later, his fourth tiny clock was tested. The crew tested the clock on a trip to Jamaica. They arrived 161 days later, the clock was only five seconds off. John received his reward and was seventy-nine years old.

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    • profile image

      Akshata 

      5 years ago

      Congrats u r article was very useful for me

    • profile image

      6t77 

      5 years ago

      7ie456we

    • profile image

      gary 

      5 years ago

      this was for a project at school for dcg with my teacher Tank

    • profile image

      sumit 

      7 years ago

      hi i really appreciate this article.very useful information for those who want to know about wall clocks more

    • profile image

      Clocks 

      7 years ago

      That was a really informative post on the history of clocks. Mechanical clocks are the older version, but here you can still find nice types!

      Thanks for sharing!

    • JimboAkimbo profile image

      JimboAkimbo 

      7 years ago from Florida

      I really enjoyed reading about the various types of clocks over the ages. I had not known about the water clock(bucket method), but while reading I began to think of other possible issues that could arise from that method. Evaporation would be an issue regardless of heat since even at room temperature a glass of water will eventually disappear if left out. The elevation of the bucket needed to be taken into consideration as well, as the density of the air around it would have an effect on the water pressure(or weight of the air pressing down on the surface of the water). Anyway, as I said, I really enjoyed your article. Keep up the good work.

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