|52 Tick, Tock 1656
FOR CENTURIES, sundials and water clocks--none too accurate--told us all we needed to know about time. Mechanical clocks, using deadweight-powered gears, started appearing on towers in Italy in the 14th century, but their timekeeping was less impressive than their looks, wandering up to 15 minutes a day. By the 17th century a who's who of geniuses, including Galileo and Pascal, had theorized about, but failed to build, better timepieces. Then, in 1656, Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens constructed the first pendulum clock, revolutionizing timekeeping. The precision of Huygens's clock allowed scientists to use it for their physics experiments, shopkeepers to open and close at fixed hours and workers to be paid by the hour. Time discipline permeated private life, too: Punctuality became a virtue. In 1761, Englishman John Harrison perfected a clock that worked at sea and put accurate time--and thus longitude--in a navigator's pocket. At last man knew where he was.
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