Published on April 3rd, 2018 | by Sarah Jubb
Celebrating Clockmaker John Harrison 325 Years Later
Google celebrates the birth of English inventor John Harrison with a Google Doodle. Yorkshireman Harrison was the creator of the world’s first marine chronometer to calculate longitude while at sea, revolutionising sailing.
The clockmaker was born 325 years ago on April 3 1693 in Foulby Yorkshire and originally trained as a carpenter. As an avid lover of clocks, he educated himself to become a horologist, the study of the measurement of time.
In 1714, the British government created the Board of Longitude that had the goal of curbing natural disasters. This was in response to the 1707 Scilly naval disaster that saw the Royal Navy lose four warships off the Isles of Scilly. The reason for the disaster has been attributed to the inability of the navigators to calculate their positions accurately along with inadequate compasses and errors in charts and pilot books.
The Board offered a £20,000 prize (estimated to be worth well in excess £2.5 million today) for anyone who could create a method or device that would determine longitude to within 30 nautical miles.
John Harrison’s Marine Timekeepers
Harrison began work on a chronometer in 1728 before completing his first design in 1735, seven years later. The first design, know as the H1 now, successfully completed a sea trial on the HM ship Centurion that sailed for Lisbon.
Two years later, he completed the H2 chronometer which never had a trial due to a flaw. But the H3 began development in 1740, which he would then work on for nineteen years. But around 1751, Harrison has commissioned the watchmaker John Jeffreys to create a watch that had a new balance which worked so well Harrison incorporated the design into the H4.
This chronometer was radically different to the others, being the shape of a large pocket watch. Permission was given in 1761 for Harrison and his son, William, to travel to Jamaica to test the watch which proved another success.
A Guinness Record Over 200 Years Later
A Guinness record for someone who died 242 years ago may sound impressive, but what was perhaps even more impressive is the clock that John Harrison designed but was never able to create. He claimed that he could create a pendulum timepiece that would be incredibly accurate, estimated to within a second over a 100-day period.
At the time, it was ridiculed as impossible but an experiment undertaken by the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers and the National Physical Laboratory in 2015 saw his clock finally built and tested for 100 days. The result? Harrison had been correct, with the clock noted to be running quarter of a second being Greenwich Mean Time at the start of the trial and 7/8ths of a second behind at the end of the trial.
This meant that it has lost 5/8s of a second during the 100-day trial, which is not considered by many to be a masterpiece. Particularly as this design was created in the late 18th century and clocks of the accuracy seen were not developed until the 20th century.
Keep Time With The Post Office Shop
While it may not be as impressive as the achievements of John Harrison, the range of simple Clocks available on the Post Office Shop are the perfect way to keep track of time in the home or the office. We have a range from standard wall clocks such as the Acctim Aylesbury Wall Clock in red to the Acctim Century Aluminium Radio Controlled Wall Clock which is accurate to a fraction of a second.
They’re all available at great prices and with next working day delivery, so why not look and ensure your office can keep time efficiently?