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John Harrison (Read 7396 times)
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John Harrison
12. Apr 2006 at 14:08
 
John Harrison (March 24, 1693–March 24, 1776) was an English clock maker, who designed and built the world's first successful maritime clock, one whose accuracy was great enough to allow the determination of longitude over long distances.
 
Harrison was born at Foulby, near Wakefield, in Yorkshire. Around 1700, the family moved to Barrow upon Humber in North Lincolnshire. Harrison was the eldest of five children, and his father was a carpenter. A carpenter by initial trade, Harrison built and repaired clocks in his spare time. Legend has it that he was given a watch when he was six to amuse him while in bed with smallpox, spending hours listening to it and studying its moving parts. As clocks and watches of all kinds were rare and expensive at the time, and Harrison came from a family of fairly modest means, it is likely the legend is false or the timepiece was broken enough to be worth little.
 
He built his first longcase clock in 1713, at the age of 20. The mechanism was made entirely from wood, which was not a curious choice of material for a joiner. Three of Harrison's early wooden clocks have survived; the first (1713) is in London, at the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers' Collection in Guildhall;. the second (1715), is in the Science Museum; the third (1717) is at Nostell Priory in Yorkshire.
 
He was a man of many skills and used these to systematically improve the performance of pendulum clocks. For example, he invented the gridiron pendulum, consisting of alternating brass and iron rods assembled so that the different expansions and contractions cancel each other out. Another example of his inventive genius was the grasshopper escapement—a control device for the step-by-step release of a clock's driving power. Being almost frictionless, it required no oiling.
 
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