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The Measurement of Time

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 29 March 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the measurement of time. Early civilisations used the movements of heavenly bodies to tell the time, but even in the ancient world more sophisticated timekeeping devices such as waterclocks were known. The development of mechanical clocks in Europe emerged in the medieval period when monks used such devices to sound an alarm to signal it was the hour to pray, although these clocks did not tell them the time. For hundreds of years clocks were inaccurate and it proved hard to remedy the problems, let alone settle on a standard time that the country should follow. It was with the advent of the railways that time finally became standardised in Britain in the mid-19th century and only in 1884 that Greenwich became the prime meridian of the world. Atomic clocks now mark the passing of the days, hours, and minutes and they are capable of keeping time to a second in 15 million years. With:Kristen LippincottFormer Director of the Royal Observatory, GreenwichJim BennettDirector of the Museum of the History of Science at the University of OxfordJonathan BettsSenior Curator of Horology at the Royal Observatory, GreenwichProducer: Natalia Fernandez.

  • FURTHER READING

    A. Aveni, ‘Empires of Time: Calendars, Clocks and Cultures’ (New York, 1989)

    J. A. Bennett, ‘The Divided Circle: A History of Instruments for Astronomy, Navigation and Surveying’ (Oxford, 1987)

    J. Betts, ‘Harrison’ (London, 2007)

    A. Borst, ‘The Ordering of Time: From the Ancient Computus to the Modern Computer’ Engl. transl by A. Winnard, (Cambridge, 1983)

    Eric Bruton, ‘The History of Clocks and Watches’ (Orbis, 1979, or Macdonald & Co, 1989, or Little, Brown & Co., 2000)

    F. J. Britten, ‘Old Clocks and Watches and Their Makers’ (Pub Marketing Enterprises, 1973)

    Clutton & Daniels, ‘Watches’ (Batsford, 1965)

    R. J. Drummond, ‘The Evolution of Clockwork’ (London, 1931)

    S. L. Gibbs, ‘Greek and Roman Sundials’ (New Haven and London, 1976)

    E. Grant, ‘Planets, Stars and Orbs: Medieval Cosmology, 1200-1687’ (Cambridge, 1994)

    H. Higton, ‘Sundials: An Illustrated History of Portable Dials’ (London, 2001)

    D. Howse, ‘Greenwich Time and the Longitude’ 2nd edn (London, 1977)

    H. C. King, ‘Geared to the Stars: The Evolution of Planetariums, Orreries and Astronomical Clocks’ (Toronto, 1979)

    D. Landes, ‘Revolution in Time: Clocks and the Making of the Modern World’ (London, 1983)

    J. D. Robertson, ‘The Evolution of Clockwork’ (London, 1931)

    D. J. Warner, ‘The Sky Explored: Celestial Cartography 1500-1800’ (New York, 1979)

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