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10 - Clock Developments

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 October 2018

Dennis D. McCarthy
Affiliation:
United States Naval Observatory
P. Kenneth Seidelmann
Affiliation:
University of Virginia
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Summary

The word "clock" comes from a medieval word for bell, and the original purpose of clocks was to ring bells. The division of the day into 24 hours by the ancient Egyptians created hours of different lengths depending on the season of the year. Early devices, designed to measure time intervals, were based on the flow of water, burning candles, incense sticks, and sand flow. Mechanical clocks appeared in the latter part of the 13th century, and the development of pendulum clocks originally conceived by Galileo led to significant improvements in timekeeping. Because of the difficulty in creating clocks marking seasonal hours, however, clocks were made to display equal hours. The pendulum clock went through many developments to achieve improved accuracies. Further improvements in clock technology included the development of chronometers for navigation at sea and quartz crystal clocks. These improvements can be quantified numerically by precision, accuracy, and stability.
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Chapter
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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