Clockwork - the medieval European machine that transformed the world

Mar
06
Monday, March 6, 2017 - 05:15
Contact person
Dr Cristina Neagu
Email: 
cristina.neagu@chch.ox.ac.uk
Phone: 
01865 276265
Talk / Lecture

It was the invention of a self-acting geared mechanism, perhaps by the Oxonian monk Richard of Wallingford around 1326, that paved the way to a technological civilisation.

Not only did early clocks tell the time, they also rang bells, played tunes, and activated planetary machines. Then everybody wanted one, as a commercial society began to simplify and miniaturise the design, leading to the watch. After 1600, clocks became increasingly precise scientific instruments, with Christ Church's Robert Hooke making major innovations. Non-Europeans first encountering them thought that clocks were somehow alive. The precision self-acting principle implicit within the clock would inspire thousands of other inventions, from the steam engine down to the mobile phone.

The lecture will trace that remarkable journey of ingenuity, commerce, and social transformation.