John Harrison Clockmaker (1)
"She will be late," said Sir Thomas, taking out his watch; "but what is your difficulty?"
Mansfield Park Ch. 23
Jane Austen was well aware of the importance of time. In the quote above she uses the simple act of consulting a watch to contrast the reactions of Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram to Fanny’s dinner invitation from the Grants. However, timekeeping was not always a simple thing in the eighteenth century.
At JASNACWNY’s March meeting David Meisel spoke about the development of clocks and watches in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In an earlier post (March16, 2015) we noted that one of the central problems of the era was keeping time at sea. A good chronometer was essential for determining longitude accurately. The presentation described the work of John Harrison in developing chronometers accurate enough to enable ship captains to know their position.
Harrison’s work was not always appreciated and many of his contemporaries did not believe his time pieces would work. Well, now we have proof of the accuracy of Harrison’s designs. Recently, the Guardian reported (2) on an attempt to measure the accuracy of a clock designed and built to Harrison’s specifications. The test was overseen by the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers (who else?) and demonstrated that the clock lost only five eighths of a second over a 100 day period, well within Harrison’s original specification.
So if you missed the March meeting be sure to check out the article and then check your watch to make sure you will not be late for dinner.
(1) “John Harrison Uhrmacher" by Philippe Joseph Tassaert (1732-1803)After Thomas King († circa 1796) [1767 painting] - . Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Harrison_Uhrmacher.jpg#/media/File:John_Harrison_Uhrmacher.jpg