You may have heard of a few or more of the following historical people and events: Thomas Mudge, George Graham, John Harrison, the Longitude Prize, Captain James Cook, and the mutiny on the ‘HMS Bounty.’ However, you are less likely to have heard the name of a horologist who played a pivotal role in all of the above: Larcum Kendall (1719–1790). Come with me on a worldwide adventure involving timekeeping and history.
Ferdinand Berthoud was born in 1727 in Switzerland. When he passed away in 1807, after having lived most of his life in Paris, he left behind a vast body of work in marine chronometers, clocks and watches, tools, scientific measuring instruments, and written publications including dozens of specialized books and treatises encompassing 4,000 pages and 120 engraved plates. The search for precision was his life. But why are we bringing this up now?
A recent visit to Dallas, Texas gifted me with a surprise: I came across a very large painting simply entitled ‘Watch’ at the Dallas Museum of Art. Further inquiry into its painter, Gerald Murphy, revealed a fun historical anecdote and a bit of a mystery. Why did Murphy paint a giant Cubist impression of two watches in 1925, and which watches were they?
If you’ve been lucky enough to travel to the “four corners” area of the southwestern United States (where U.S. states Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico “meet”), then you may have seen or even visited some of the cliff dwellings built by ancient native Americans that were erroneously called Anasazi for thousands of years, and now go by the term Ancestral Puebloans. Read on to find out what we know about how this ancient tribe of people kept time and why they needed to do so.
One of the last of the so-called Radium Girls passed away at the age of 107 in late 2014. These were women working in factories tasked with painting the numerals and other markings on watch dials with a luminous paint comprising glue, water, and radium powder. Little did they know the consequences this job would have.
Contemplating the 30-meter-high ancient pyramid at Mayan archeological site Chichén Itzá in the blazing Yucatán sunlight, I was awestruck by the structure’s complexity. Not just because of the pure historical ramifications of the pyramid and temple , but also because of its timekeeping capabilities. Chichén Itzá’s most famous structure was actually built to be the world’s largest calendar And this at a time when calendars didn’t even exist!