History of Time
As we consider the history of time, it becomes obvious that at some point it must have become necessary for our ancestors to come up with a way to catalog the moments in the day and devise a system that would place them all on the same page, so to speak, to schedule public gatherings or work schedules.
Shadow clocks or sundials were among the earliest of timekeepers. Cleopatra’s Needle (right) is an example that now resides along the Thames in London. The refined engineering of these instruments became so precise that, as Derek Roberts writes, “(L)ittle ivory tablet sundials and ring sundials [were], in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, the equivalent of the gentleman’s pocket watch.”
Many incarnations of the sundial were designed and utilized, but the most common form was the garden sundial, a flat disk with an angled wedge indicator. Even in the early days of longcase clocks in the seventeenth century, garden sundials, along with various equations, were used to set and regulate the new machines.
Believe it or not, there were inventions such as water clocks and fire clocks utilized over the years as well. More in the vein of timers, the water clocks worked simply to indicate time as water passed through a hole in a bucket and the fire clocks were, well, let’s face it, burning candles.