• IAS Exams


    CLOCK. The measurement of time has always been based on the revolution of the celestial bodies, and the period of the apparent revolution of the sun, i.e. the interval between two consecutive crossings of a meridian, has been the usual standard for a day. By the Egyptians the day was divided into 24 hours of equal length. The Greeks adopted a different system, dividing the day, i.e. the period from sunrise to sunset, into 12 hours, and also the night. Whence it followed that it was only at two periods in the year that the length of the hours during the day and night were uniform (see CALENDAR). In consequence, those who adopted the Greek system were obliged to furnish their water-clocks (see CLEPSYDRA) with a compensating device so that the equal hours measured by those clocks should be rendered unequal, according to the exigencies of the season. The hours were divided into minutes and seconds, a system derived from the sexagesimal notation which prevailed before the decimal system was finally adopted. Our mode of computing time, and our angular measure, are the only relics of this obsolete system. The simplest measure of time is the revolution of the earth round its -axis, which so far as we know is uniform, perfectly regular, and has not varied in speed during any period of human observation. The time of such a revolution is called a sidereal day, and is divided into hours, minutes and seconds. The period of rotation of the earth is practially measured by observations of the fixed stars (see TIME), the period between two successive transits of the same star across a meridian constituting the sidereal day. But as the axis of the earth slowly revolves round in a cone, whereby the phenomenon known as the precession of the equinoxes is produced, it follows that the astronomical sidereal day is not the true period of the earth's rotation on its axis, but varies from it by less than a twenty millionth part, a fraction so small as to be inappreciable. But the civil day depends not on the revolution of the earth with regard to the stars, but on its revolution as compared with the position of the sun. Therefore each civil day is on the average longer than a sidereal one by nearly four minutes, or, to be exact, each sidereal day is to an average civil day as •99727 to 1, and the sidereal hour, minute and second are also shorter in like proportion. Hence a sidereal clock has a shorter, quicker-moving pendulum than an ordinary clock. Ordinary civil time thus depends on the apparent revolution of the sun round the earth. As, however, this is not uniform, it is needful for practical convenience to give it an artificial uniformity. For this purpose an imaginary sun, moving round the earth with the average velocity of the real sun, and called the " mean " sun, is taken as the measure of civil time. The day is divided into 24 hours, each hour into 6o minutes, and each minute into 6o seconds. After that the sexagesimal division system is abandoned, and fractions of seconds are estimated in decimals. A clock consists of a train of wheels, actuated by a spring or weight, and provided with a governing device which so regulates the speed as to render it uniform. It also has a mechanism by which it strikes the hours on a bell or gong (cp. Fr. clothe, Ger. Glocke, a bell; Dutch klok, bell, clock), whereas, strictly, a timepiece does not strike, but simply shows the time. The earliest clocks seem to have come into use in Europe during the 13th century. For although there is evidence that they may have been invented some centuries sooner, yet until that date they were probably only curiosities. The first form they took was that of the balance clock, the invention of which .is ascribed, but on very insufficient grounds, to Pope Silvester II. in A.D. 996. A clock was put up in a former clock tower at Westminster with some great bells in 1288, out of a fine imposed on a chief-justice who had offended the government, and the motto Discite justitiam, moniti, inscribed upon it. The bells were sold, or rather, it is said, gambled away, by Henry VIII. In 1292 a dock in Canterbury cathedral is mentioned as costing £30, and another at St Albans, by R. Wallingford, the abbot in 1326, is said to have been such as there was not in all Europe, showing various astronomical Irhenomena. A description of one in Dover Castle with the date 1348 on it was published by Admiral W. H. Smyth (1788—1865) in 1851, and the clock itself was exhibited going, in the Scientific Exhibition of 1876. A very similar one, made by Henry de Vick for the French king Charles V. in 1379 was much like the common clocks of the 18th century, except that it had a vibrating balance instead of a pendulum. The works of one of these old clocks still exist in a going condition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It came from Wells cathedral, having previously been at Glastonbury abbey. These old clocks had what is called a verge escapement, and a balance. The train of wheels ended with a crown wheel, that is, a wheel serrated with teeth like those of a saw, placed parallel with its axis (fig. 1), These teeth, D, engaged with pallets CB, CA, mounted on a verge or staff placed parallel to the face of the crown wheel. As the crown wheel was turned round the teeth pushed the pallets alternately until one or the other slid past a tooth, and thus let the crown wheel rotate. When one pallet had slipped over a tooth, the other pallet caught a corre- sponding tooth on the opposite side of the wheel. The verge was terminated by a balance rod placed at right angles to it with a ball at each end. It is evident that when the force of any tooth on the crown wheel began to act on a pallet, it communicated motion to the balance and thus caused it to rotate. This motion would of course be accelerated, not uniformly, but according to some law dependent on the shape of the teeth and pallets. When the motion had reached its maximum, the tooth slipped past the pallet. The other pallet now engaged another tooth on the op- posite side of the wheel. The motion of the balls, however, went on and they continued to swing round, but the pressure of the tooth. For a time they overcame that pressure, and drove the tooth back, causing a recoil. As, however, every motion if subjected to an adverse acceleration (i.e. a retardation) must come to rest, the balls stopped, and then the tooth, which had been forced to recoil, advanced in its turn, and the swing was repeated. The arrangement was thus very like a huge watch balance wheel in which the driving weight acted in a very irregular manner, not only as a driving force, but also as a regulating spring. The going of such clocks was influenced greatly by friction and by the oil on the parts, and never could be satisfactory, for the time varied with every variation in the swing of the balls, and this again with every variation of the effective driving force. The first great step in the improvement of the balance clock was a very simple one. In the 17th century Galileo had discovered the isochronism of the pendulum, but he made no practical use of it, except by the invention of a little instrument for enabling doctors to count their patients' pulse-beats. His son, however, is supposed to have applied the pendulum to clocks. There is at the Victoria and Albert Museum a copy of an early clock, said to be Galileo's, in which the pins on a rotating wheel kick a pendulum outwards, remaining locked after having done so till the pendulum returns and unlocks the next pin, which then administers another kick to the pendulum (fig. 2). The interest of the specimen is that it contains the germ of the chronometer escapement and free pendulum, which is possibly destined to be the escapement of the future. The essential component parts of a clock are: 1. The pendulum or time-governing device; 2. The escapement, whereby the pendulum controls the speed of going; 3. The train of wheels, urged round by the weight or main-spring, together with the recording parts, i.e. the dial, hands and hour motion wheels; 4. The striking mechanism. The general construction of the going part of all clocks, except large or turret clocks, is substantially the same, and fig. 3 is a section of any or- dinary house clock. B is the barrel with the cord coiled round it, generally 16 times for the 8 days; the barrel is fixed to its arbor K, which is prolonged into the winding square coming up to the face or dial of the clock; the dial is here shown as fixed either by small screws x, or by a socket and pin z, to the pro-longed pillars p, p, which (4 or 5 in number) connect the plates or frame of the clock together, though the dial is commonly set on to the front plate by another set of pillars of its own. The great wheel G rides on the arbor, and is connected with the barrel by the ratchet R, the action of which is shown more fully in fig. 25. The FIG. 3.—Section of House Clock. intermediate wheel r in this drawing is for a purpose which will be described hereafter, and for the present it may be considered as omitted, and the click of the ratchet R as fixed to the great wheel. The great wheel drives the pinion c which is called the centre pinion, on the arbor of the centre wheel C, which goes through to the dial, and carries the long, or minute-hand; this wheel always turns in an hour, and the great wheel generally in 12 hours, by having 12 times as many teeth as the centre pinion. The centre wheel drives the " second wheel " D by its pinion d, and that again drives the scape-wheel E by its pinion e. If the pinions d and e have each 8 teeth or leaves (as the teeth of pinions are usually called), C will have 64 teeth and D 6o, in a clock of which the scapewheel turns in a minute, so that the seconds hand may be set on its arbor prolonged to the dial* A represents the pallets of the escapement, which will be described presently, and their arbor a goes through a large hole in the back plate near F, and its back pivot turns in a cock OFQ screwed on to the back plate. From. the pallet arbor at F descends the crutch Ff, ending in the fork f, which embraces the pendulum P, so that as the pendulum vibrates, the crutch and the pallets necessarily vibrate with it. The pendulum is hung by a thin spring S from the cock Q, so that the bending point of the spring may be just opposite the end of the pallet arbor, and the edge of the spring as close to the end of that arbor as possible. We may now go to the front (or left hand) of the clock, and Escapement. describe the dial or " motion-work."