Lessons in Longitude

Harrison-H4Andrea here, thinking about . . . Time. This month, most of us in the U.S. turn the clock back an hour for Daylight Savings Time (I don’t know about you, but I very much dislike the darkness that settles in around 5 pm in winter.) Now, where does that hour go? Yes, I know that we get it back in Spring, but it seems a cavalier attitude to play games with the ticking of the Universe.

800px-Christiaan_Huygens-paintingMy mulling on this has been amplified because I’ve been thinking of working in marine chronometers in a future Wrexford & Sloane mystery book. I happen to love antique mechanical wristwatches, as I think they’re both beautiful and functional. The intricate inner workings are exquisite works of art—for me it’s very cool when functional objects can also be intrinsically beautiful.

But back to marine chronometers! From the first stirrings of humanity, time is an elemental concept that regulates so many facets of our existence—our age, the cycle of the seasons, how calculate speed and distance . . . The first really precise timepiece was the pendulum clock, invented in 1656 by Christiaan Huygens (shown above), a Dutch scientist who was inspired by Galileo’s experiments with pendulums.

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