Saturday, 28 March 2009

Incense Sticks, Candles, Hourglass and Bells .. what's the connection?

Dear Mr Postman .. thank you so much for coming today .. it is so wonderful to get your newsy positive letter and they give my mother something to ponder over or dream about as she sadly lies in bed. Yesterday's post gave us some memories of watching the Boat Race from the river bank when I was only 5 .. my father rowed for Worcester College, Oxford and so we had the privelege of being able to be on the slipway from where my brother and I could run around!!

Time!! Today the clocks have gone forward for British Summertime - so once again we're in synch with the USA .. and so I thought an incredibly short history of time might provide some interesting snippets? I'm not going into the intricacies .. this requires an erudite mind (please look here!) .. but a few salient points along the way may be of interest.

For early man the only obvious measurement was the moon, however the Sumerian civilization 6,000BC to 2,000BC in Southern Iraq (Mesopotamia), known as the Cradle of Civilization, appear to have introduced the sexagesimal system, based on the number 60 and number 12 - being 1/5 of 60 - when the definition of calendar and time were as one ...

A large variety of devices have been used to measure time - in ancient times: the Egyptian
T-Square, Chinese Sundials, Egyptian water clocks, Arab engineers and Chinese inventors were starting to develop mechanical mechanisms in the 11th Century. The hourglass uses the flow of sand to measure time and Ferdinand Magellan used 18 hourglasses for each ship on his circumnavigation of the globe in 1522.

Incense Sticks and Candles are still used to tell the time in temples and churches across the world. The word "clock" is derived from French, Latin and German words that mean bell. The hours were marked by bells in abbeys, as well as used to tell the passage of hours at sea.

Clocks became more sophisticated as knowledge and materials became more advanced - and today whether we can improve on the atomic clock, which is accurate to seconds in many millions of years, remains to be seen ..

British time started to become standardised when the Age of Exploration was in full swing, once mariners and explorers were able to determine longitude, they kept one chronometer on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) in order to calculate their longitude as they continued on their travels. However in the 1840s with the coming of the railways it was essential that the timetable could be set, so the railway companies in1847/8 adopted Greenwich time. Eventually in 1884 GMT was internationally accepted at a conference in Washington DC.
Daylight Saving Time has some quite interesting historical facts associated with it .. as well as the benefits and drawbacks .. so I will make sure that that letter reaches you tomorrow.

Dear Mr Postman - it's so helpful to have a potted history of time and you did find some interesting facts & we will enjoy receiving tomorrow's letter telling us about British Summer Time. By the way did you back the winner in the Boat Race? - Oxford ! That was a really good race - it was so tactical and fun to watch ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Peter Baca said...


Interesting intellectual post on time today! The historical information about hour glasses used by Magellan was very interesting.

The International Meridian Conference was very informative and determined so much.

Thanks for your post!

Pete Baca
The Car Enthusiast Online

Giovanna Garcia said...

Hi Hilary
Thank your for the history of Clock. When I think of Clock, I think of Big Ben. What I was in London and saw Big Ben for the first time, I look at he big clock and I pointed at it and said Big Ben, a man on the bus told me: "Big Ben is not the clock, it is the unit in the belly of the tower.
Anyway, thanks your post :-)
Giovanna Garcia
Impefect Action is better than No Action

Unknown said...

Dear Hilary, Thank you for your post on interesting concept "Time". "Time" is always with lives, since beginning of living creatures. When does it start? When does it end? At the same time, there are human concepts which do not really exist, such as eternity. This is a subject I want to discuss with you in depth. Thank you again for your profound article.

Shaw Funami
Fill the Missing Link

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Dear Pete - thank you for your comments .. I just found some of the information so interesting - we just keep going with our own modern lives and forget how things developed.

I know that when I discuss this with my mother .. we can generate other topics to discuss and laugh about - especially how lucky we are in this day and age.

Thanks for commenting -
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Gio .. thanks for your comment've given me another thought & topic for a post: Big Ben and another aspect re grandfather clocks. Your bus companion made an interesting observation re Big Ben being the unit in the belly of the tower .. there's quite a history to Big Ben.

Thanks so much for commenting and it's great you've actually seen Big Ben

Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Shaw - thank you for visiting and commenting on time. Time is a subject that's constantly eluded scholars over the centuries and still continues to generate viewpoints.

However the necessity to have a measurement was fairly obvious due to the span of a life and the duration of a 'day'.

I'm glad you enjoyed the post and thank you for commenting.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Believe Achieve - Hugo and Roxanne said...

Hi Hilary!

Great post on clocks and time! I loved learning about the use of hourglasses by Magellan and the burning of candles and incense in to tell time. So interesting!!

I learned a gazillion new things just from your post! Thank you. :-)

Many Blessings....
Roxanne ~ Believe Achieve

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Roxanne .. just so glad you enjoyed it and can pick up odd snippets .. yes I was amazed about Magellan and his trip ..

Learning a gazillion things .. puts a little pressure charge on the coming posts!!

A gazillion thanks for visiting!!
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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