Monday, September 22, 2008

The Grasshopper and John Harrison

"What's with the grasshopper?"

I could understand the question. Cambridge's Corpus Christi college spends £1m (about $2m) on a new clock to show on the world famous Kings Parade, that took 8 engineers five years work and contains 24 carat gold, even getting Steven Hawking to open it, and at the top is a huge ugly bug of a grasshopper.

The crowds admiring - no, inspecting- it on Saturday were not at all sure. I muttered something about it was eating up time, but that didn't cover it really. It is actually rather amazing in a gothic sort of way, surprising large and you tell the time using blue lights in the slits in the face.

But apparently its a homage to one of Britain's great engineers, who solved one of the great problems of navigational safety, and should have been awarded a great prize by Parliament.

For it was John Harrison who solved the problem of determining longitude at sea by creating clocks of sufficient accuracy.

And one of the keys to his clocks was the grasshopper escapement that releases a clock's gears at each swing of its pendulum.

And it was this grasshopper that inspired John Taylor to design the Time Eater clock.

I rather liked it!


tillerman said...

Hmmm. Maybe someone should have entered Harrison's clocks into the project on Best Sailing Innovation Ever?

JP said...

Ok, lets put it at number 6, after winches (or wenches, depending upon who's list you are using)