Who Invented the Clock?

Who invented the clock?

Many types of clocks are in use today. Each kind has its own inventor and history. But from the beginning, men have used all kinds of objects and materials to be able to keep time. Here are the different types of clocks used and how they were made.

Astronomical Calendars
When men looked up at the sky, they noticed that the sun, moon, stars and other heavenly bodies moved in cycles. This allowed them to tell time. The Sumerians used a solar calendar with 30-day long months and 12 periods in each day. The famous Stonehenge in Britain was an ancient timekeeping monument. It marked various astronomical and seasonal events like eclipses, equinoxes, etc.

The Egyptians first used a lunar calendar, just as the Chinese did. Later the Egyptians invented a 365-day solar year based on when the Dog Star Sirius would rise near the sun. The Mayans had a very accurate calendar too. They used not only the sun and moon, but also the planet Venus.

Sun and Water Clocks
Ancient peoples had other ways to tell time. The Egyptians invented the obelisk. Its shadow was used to mark the hours of the day. This was a type of sundial.

Another kind of clock was the water clock. Different models of water clocks existed. The oldest was a vessel with a hole at the bottom. The vessel was filled with water and it would pour out at a constant rate. The Chinese made use of water clocks to time the fertility of the emperor’s consort.

The Pendulum Clock
The first accurate, modern clock was the pendulum clock. It was invented in 1656 by a Dutch scientist, Christian Huygens. When he first built the pendulum, it had an error of 1 minute per day. A lot of tweaking later, he had reduced it to only 10 seconds a day. The famous astronomer, Galileo Galilei, also dreamed up a pendulum design- but he never got to build it during his lifetime.

Different inventors later made improvements on Huygens’ invention. George Graham reduced the error margin to 1 second. John Harrison won an award for inventing a chronometer for use at sea. It was accurate to within 1/5 of a second. In 1889, Siegmund Riefier narrowed down the clock’s inaccuracy further to just 1/100 of a second. But his invention was overshadowed by the W.H. Shortt clock in 1921. The Shortt clock had two pendulums, with the “slave” pendulum pushing the “master” to move and also keeping the hands going.

The Quartz Clock
The pendulum went out of vogue when the quartz clock ticked in. The quartz clock was the invention of a Canadian engineer, Warren Marrison. He discovered he could use quartz crystals’ vibration in an electric circuit to be able to accurately tell time. It became the standard timekeeping device from the 1930s onward.