Sunday, October 03, 2010

Guardians of Time (Part IV: Harrison for All Times)

As the most powerful naval force, the British have promised £ 20,000, then a large sum of money, to the one who makes a clock whose accuracy for a month of traveling by sea will not deviate more than two minutes. The idea emerged spontaneously, after the crash of their four ships that were wrecked near the home port of Isles of Scilly on 29th of September 1707 when 2000 sailors were killed. It turns out that the cause of the accident was that they did not know the exact longitude for which determination was necessary perfectly accurate clock.

Despite the large amount and effort of many talented craftsmen to reach the prize, it was deserved only in 1761 by a famous London clockmaker John Harrison. His clock "Timekeeper" measured time during a voyage of ship "Deptford" to Jamaica and back and in 161 days of sailing it was delayed only 5 seconds. Prior to this, Harrison has introduced a multitude of improvements, novelties and totally new inventions. However, he received the award just before the end of his life, through the mediation of King George III in Parliament. This clock is now kept at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich (London), and the first confirmation of its value, was experienced during the journey of James Hook, when a great sailor, looking for Terra Australis Incognita (Unknown Southern Land), sailed around the earth at the southernmost latitude possible. After 112,000 kilometers, of four verified clocks only Harrison’s chronometer proved really reliable.

The greatest, but also and rare, recognition, the London clockmaker and his invention received after more than two centuries. After a successful first landing on the moon, on July 21,1969, the crew of the spaceship Apollo 11 set off on a tour during which she was in London, where the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson hosted a reception. Contrary to custom, to toast the host, scientists or designers, Neil Armstrong, the man who first stepped onto the surface of our first celestial neighbor, toasted just to John Harrison, whose epochal work, accurate timing and navigation, gave a significant impetus to the exploration of the universe.

To return to Guardians of Time (Part I: The Time Has Come), click HERE.

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