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What Is Time

Mrs Glockrunner

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During the mid-1720s he designed a series of remarkable precision longcase clocks. These clocks achieved an accuracy of one second in a month, far better than any clocks of the time.  

In order to solve the problem of Longitude, Harrison aimed to devise a portable clock which kept time to within three seconds a day. This would make it far more accurate than even the best watches of the time.

John Harrison arrived in London, looking for both support and the rewards promised by the 1714 Longitude Act 

The Longitude Act was an act of parliament that offered money in return for the solution to the problem of finding a ship's precise longitude at sea.


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The development of accurate time keeping standards and devices was absolutely necessary to the unprecedented growth of the railway industry as it developed in North America.

When railroads were new, each community was insular and relied on their own time, usually local sun time. People often regarded their local time to be whatever was displayed on the courthouse clock. This was a serious problem for the railways and for their passengers. Accurate, standardized time was essential not just for passengers, but for train operations by timetable and train order. In Britain, The Great Western Railway led the way toward standard time by adopting London time, in November 1840. But standard time was not universal there until the Definition of Time Act took effect on August 2, 1880. Meanwhile, in the US and Canada, standard time and time zones were instituted across the map by the railroads effective at noon on November 18, 1883. Standard time and zones were only made official in the US by the passage of the Standard Time Act of March 19, 1918.

Although reasonably accurate pendulum clocks were already available when the railway industry was new, accurate, portable time keeping was not. The need had first become of importance with the quest for accurate identification of longitude at sea. John Harrison's marine chronometer of 1761 was designed to answer this need. But chronometers wouldn't solve the needs of the railways; the need was for much more portable watches.

As with the steel industry and the Morse telegraph, the growth of an industry to develop high quality, mass produced clocks and watches resulted from the unprecedented growth of the railroads.


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