Hourglass

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German half-hour sand glass, first quarter of the 16th century, bronze-gilt and silver-gilt, height: 8.3 cm, diameter: 8.4 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City) Half-hour sand glass MET ES268.jpg
German half-hour sand glass, first quarter of the 16th century, bronze-gilt and silver-gilt, height: 8.3 cm, diameter: 8.4 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)
A winged hourglass, a literal depiction of the well-known Latin epitaph tempus fugit ("time flies") E4CC appendix2.jpg
A winged hourglass, a literal depiction of the well-known Latin epitaph tempus fugit ("time flies")

An hourglass (or sandglass, sand timer, sand clock or egg timer) is a device used to measure the passage of time. It comprises two glass bulbs connected vertically by a narrow neck that allows a regulated trickle of material (historically sand) from the upper bulb to the lower one. Factors affecting the time it is measured include sand quantity, sand coarseness, bulb size, and neck width. Hourglasses may be reused indefinitely by inverting the bulbs once the upper bulb is empty. Depictions of hourglasses in art survive in large numbers from antiquity to the present day, as a symbol for the passage of time. These were especially common sculpted as epitaphs on tombstones or other monuments, also in the form of the winged hourglass, a literal depiction of the well-known Latin epitaph tempus fugit ("time flies").

Time dimension in which events can be ordered from the past through the present into the future

Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in an apparently irreversible succession from the past, through the present, to the future. Time is a component quantity of various measurements used to sequence events, to compare the duration of events or the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change of quantities in material reality or in the conscious experience. Time is often referred to as a fourth dimension, along with three spatial dimensions.

Glass Amorphous solid that exhibits a glass transition

Glass is a non-crystalline, amorphous solid that is most often transparent and has widespread practical, technological, and decorative uses in, for example, window panes, tableware, optics and optoelectronics. The most familiar, and historically the oldest, types of manufactured glass are "silicate glasses" based on the chemical compound silica (silicon dioxide, or quartz), the primary constituent of sand. The term glass, in popular usage, is often used to refer only to this type of material, which is familiar from use as window glass and in glass bottles. Of the many silica-based glasses that exist, ordinary glazing and container glass is formed from a specific type called soda-lime glass, composed of approximately 75% silicon dioxide (SiO2), sodium oxide (Na2O) from sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), calcium oxide (CaO), also called lime, and several minor additives.

Sand A granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles, from 0.063 to 2 mm diameter

Sand is a granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles. It is defined by size, being finer than gravel and coarser than silt. Sand can also refer to a textural class of soil or soil type; i.e., a soil containing more than 85 percent sand-sized particles by mass.

Contents

History

Antiquity

Sarcophagus dated c. 350 AD, representing the wedding of Peleus and Thetis (observe the magnification with the object held by Morpheus in his hands) Peleus-Thetis-350.jpg
Sarcophagus dated c. 350 AD, representing the wedding of Peleus and Thetis (observe the magnification with the object held by Morpheus in his hands)

The origin of the hourglass is unclear. Its predecessor the clepsydra, or water clock, is known to have existed in Babylon and Egypt as early as the 16th century BCE.

Water clock Timepiece in which time is measured by the flow of liquid into or out of a vessel

A water clock or clepsydra is any timepiece by which time is measured by the regulated flow of liquid into or out from a vessel, and where the amount is then measured.

Babylon Kingdom in ancient Mesopotamia from the 18th to 6th centuries BC

Babylon was a key kingdom in ancient Mesopotamia from the 18th to 6th centuries BC. The name-giving capital city was built on the Euphrates river and divided in equal parts along its left and right banks, with steep embankments to contain the river's seasonal floods. Babylon was originally a small Akkadian town dating from the period of the Akkadian Empire c. 2300 BCE.

Egypt Country spanning North Africa and Southwest Asia

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country in the northeast corner of Africa, whose territory in the Sinai Peninsula extends beyond the continental boundary with Asia, as traditionally defined. Egypt is bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, Libya to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.

Early Middle Ages

Temperance bearing an hourglass; detail Lorenzetti's Allegory of Good Government, 1338 Ambrogio Lorenzetti 002-detail-Temperance.jpg
Temperance bearing an hourglass; detail Lorenzetti's Allegory of Good Government, 1338

There are no records of the hourglass existing in Europe prior to the Early Middle Ages, such as invention by the Ancient Greeks; the first supported evidences appears from the 8th century CE, crafted by a Frankish monk named Liutprand who served at the cathedral in Chartres, France. [1] [2] [3] But it was not until the 14th century that the hourglass was seen commonly, the earliest firm evidence being a depiction in the 1338 fresco Allegory of Good Government by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. [4]

Early Middle Ages Period of European history between the 5th and 10th centuries

Historians typically regard the Early Middle Ages or Early Medieval Period, sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages, as lasting from the 5th or 6th century to the 10th century. They marked the start of the Middle Ages of European history. The alternative term "Late Antiquity" emphasizes elements of continuity with the Roman Empire, while "Early Middle Ages" is used to emphasize developments characteristic of the earlier medieval period. As such the concept overlaps with Late Antiquity, following the decline of the Western Roman Empire, and precedes the High Middle Ages.

Franks Germanic people

The Franks were a group of Germanic peoples, whose name was first mentioned in 3rd century Roman sources, associated with tribes on the Lower and Middle Rhine, on the edge of the Roman Empire. Later the term was associated with Romanized Germanic dynasties within the collapsing Western Roman Empire, who eventually commanded the whole region between the rivers Loire and Rhine. They then imposed power over many other post-Roman kingdoms and Germanic peoples, and still later Frankish rulers were given recognition by the Catholic Church as successors to the old rulers of the Western Roman Empire.

Ambrogio Lorenzetti Italian painter

Ambrogio Lorenzetti or Ambruogio Laurati was an Italian painter of the Sienese school. He was active from approximately 1317 to 1348. He painted The Allegory of Good and Bad Government in the Sala dei Nove in Siena's Palazzo Pubblico. His elder brother was the painter Pietro Lorenzetti.

Use of the marine sandglass has been recorded since the 14th century. The written records about it were mostly from logbooks of European ships. [3] In the same period it appears in other records and lists of ships stores. The earliest recorded reference that can be said with certainty to refer to a marine sandglass dates from c. 1345, in a receipt of Thomas de Stetesham, clerk of the King's ship La George, in the reign of Edward III of England; translated from the Latin, the receipt says: in 1345: [5] [6]

"The same Thomas accounts to have paid at Lescluse, in Flanders, for twelve glass horologes (" pro xii. orlogiis vitreis "), price of each 4½ gross', in sterling 9s. Item, For four horologes of the same sort (" de eadem secta "), bought there, price of each five gross', making in sterling 3s. 4d." [1] [5] [6]

Marine sandglasses were very popular on board ships, as they were the most dependable measurement of time while at sea. Unlike the clepsydra, the motion of the ship while sailing did not affect the hourglass. The fact that the hourglass also used granular materials instead of liquids gave it more accurate measurements, as the clepsydra was prone to get condensation inside it during temperature changes. [7] Seamen found that the hourglass was able to help them determine longitude, distance east or west from a certain point, with reasonable accuracy. [7]

Marine sandglass

A marine sandglass is a timepiece of simple design that is a relative of the common hourglass, a marine (nautical) instrument known since the 14th century. They were employed to measure the time at sea or on a given navigational course, in repeated measures of small time increments. Used together with the chip log, smaller marine sandglasses were also used to measure the boat speed through the water in knots.

Longitude A geographic coordinate that specifies the east-west position of a point on the Earths surface

Longitude, is a geographic coordinate that specifies the east–west position of a point on the Earth's surface, or the surface of a celestial body. It is an angular measurement, usually expressed in degrees and denoted by the Greek letter lambda (λ). Meridians connect points with the same longitude. By convention, one of these, the Prime Meridian, which passes through the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, England, was allocated the position of 0° longitude. The longitude of other places is measured as the angle east or west from the Prime Meridian, ranging from 0° at the Prime Meridian to +180° eastward and −180° westward. Specifically, it is the angle between a plane through the Prime Meridian and a plane through both poles and the location in question.

The hourglass also found popularity on land. As the use of mechanical clocks to indicate the times of events like church services became more common, creating a "need to keep track of time", the demand for time-measuring devices increased. Hourglasses were essentially inexpensive, as they required no rare technology to make and their contents were not hard to come by, and as the manufacturing of these instruments became more common, their uses became more practical. [7]

Hourglasses were commonly seen in use in churches, homes, and work places to measure sermons, cooking time, and time spent on breaks from labor. [3] Because they were being used for more everyday tasks, the model of the hourglass began to shrink. The smaller models were more practical and very popular as they made timing more discreet.

After 1500, the hourglass was not as widespread as it had been. This was due to the development of the mechanical clock, which became more accurate, smaller and cheaper, and made keeping time easier.[ citation needed ] The hourglass, however, did not disappear entirely. Although they became relatively less useful as clock technology advanced, hourglasses remained desirable in their design. The oldest known surviving hourglass resides in the British Museum in London. [3]

Not until the 18th century did John Harrison come up with a marine chronometer that significantly improved on the stability of the hourglass at sea. Taking elements from the design logic behind the hourglass, he made a marine chronometer in 1761 that was able to accurately measure the journey from England to Jamaica accurate within five seconds.[ citation needed ]

19th century hourglass Clessidra 1849.jpg
19th century hourglass

Design

Little written evidence exists to explain why its external form is the shape that it is. The glass bulbs used, however, have changed in style and design over time. While the main designs have always been ampoule in shape, the bulbs were not always connected. The first hourglasses were two separate bulbs with a cord wrapped at their union that was then coated in wax to hold the piece together and let sand flow in between. [8] It was not until 1760 that both bulbs were blown together to keep moisture out of the bulbs and regulate the pressure within the bulb that varied the flow. [7]

Material

While some early hourglasses actually did use sand as the granular mixture to measure time, many did not use sand at all. The material used in most bulbs was a combination of "powdered marble, tin/lead oxides, and pulverized, burnt eggshell". [3] Over time, different textures of granule matter were tested to see which gave the most constant flow within the bulbs. It was later discovered that for the perfect flow to be achieved the ratio of granule bead to the width of the bulb neck needed to be 1/12 or more but not greater than 1/2 the neck of the bulb. [9]

Practical uses

3-minute egg timer Egg timer.jpg
3-minute egg timer

Hourglasses were an early dependable and accurate measure of time. The rate of flow of the sand is independent of the depth in the upper reservoir, and the instrument will not freeze in cold weather. [3] From the 15th century onwards, hourglasses were being used in a range of applications at sea, in the church, in industry, and in cookery.

During the voyage of Ferdinand Magellan around the globe, 18 hourglasses from Barcelona were in the ship's inventory, after the trip had been authorized by King Charles I of Spain. [10] It was the job of a ship's page to turn the hourglasses and thus provide the times for the ship's log. Noon was the reference time for navigation, which did not depend on the glass, as the sun would be at its zenith. [11] A number of sandglasses could be fixed in a common frame, each with a different operating time, e.g. as in a four-way Italian sandglass likely from the 17th century, in the collections of the Science Museum, in South Kensington, London, which could measure intervals of quarter, half, three-quarters, and one hour (and which were also used in churches, for priests and ministers to measure lengths of sermons). [12]

Modern practical uses

The Timewheel in Budapest, Hungary. Budapest timewheel 02.jpg
The Timewheel in Budapest, Hungary.

While they are no longer widely used for keeping time, some institutions do maintain them. Both houses of the Australian Parliament use three hourglasses to time certain procedures, such as divisions. [13]

The sandglass is still widely used as the kitchen egg timer; for cooking eggs, a three-minute timer is typical, [14] hence the name "egg timer" for three-minute hourglasses. Egg timers are sold widely as souvenirs.[ citation needed ] Sand timers are also sometimes used in games such as Pictionary and Boggle to implement a time constraint on rounds of play.

Symbolic uses

Pirate Christopher Moody's "Bloody Red" jack, c. 1714 Flag of Christopher Moody.svg
Pirate Christopher Moody's "Bloody Red" jack, c. 1714

Unlike most other methods of measuring time, the hourglass concretely represents the present as being between the past and the future, and this has made it an enduring symbol of time itself.

The hourglass, sometimes with the addition of metaphorical wings, is often depicted as a symbol that human existence is fleeting, and that the "sands of time" will run out for every human life. [15] It was used thus on pirate flags, to strike fear into the hearts of the pirates' victims. In England, hourglasses were sometimes placed in coffins, [16] and they have graced gravestones for centuries. The hourglass was also used in alchemy as a symbol for hour.

The former Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich in London used an hourglass on its coat of arms, symbolising Greenwich's role as the origin of GMT. The district's successor, the Royal Borough of Greenwich, uses two hourglasses on its coat of arms.

Modern symbolic uses

Hourglass cursor Cursor-design1-hourglass.svg
Hourglass cursor

Recognition of the hourglass as a symbol of time has survived its obsolescence as a timekeeper. For example, the American television soap opera Days of Our Lives , since its first broadcast in 1965, has displayed an hourglass in its opening credits, with the narration, "Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives," spoken by Macdonald Carey.

Various computer graphical user interfaces may change the pointer to an hourglass during a period when the program is in the middle of a task, and may not accept user input. During that period other programs, for example in different windows, may work normally. When such an hourglass does not disappear, it suggests a program is in an infinite loop and needs to be terminated, or is waiting for some external event (such as the user inserting a CD). Unicode has an HOURGLASS symbol at U+231B (⌛).

Hourglass motif

Diagram of "hourglass" motif from carved stone tablet, Solomon Islands Hourglass-cross.png
Diagram of "hourglass" motif from carved stone tablet, Solomon Islands

Because of its symmetry, graphic signs resembling an hourglass are seen in the art of cultures which never encountered such objects. Vertical pairs of triangles joined at the apex are common in Native American art; both in North America, [17] where it can represent, for example, the body of the Thunderbird or (in more elongated form) an enemy scalp, [18] [19] and in South America, where it is believed to represent a Chuncho jungle dweller. [20] In Zulu textiles they symbolise a married man, as opposed to a pair of triangles joined at the base, which symbolise a married woman. [21] Neolithic examples can be seen among Spanish cave paintings. [22] [23] Observers have even given the name "hourglass motif" to shapes which have more complex symmetry, such as a repeating circle and cross pattern from the Solomon Islands. [24] Both the members of Project Tic Toc, from television series the Time Tunnel and the Challengers of the Unknown use symbols of the hourglass representing either time travel or time running out.

See also

Related Research Articles

Clock Instrument for measuring, keeping or indicating time.

A clock is an instrument used to measure, keep, and indicate time. The clock is one of the oldest human inventions, meeting the need to measure intervals of time shorter than the natural units: the day, the lunar month, and the year. Devices operating on several physical processes have been used over the millennia.

John Harrison English clockmaker, horologist and inventor of the marine chronometer

John Harrison was a self-educated English carpenter and clockmaker who invented the marine chronometer, a long-sought-after device for solving the problem of calculating longitude while at sea.

Timeline of time measurement technology

Clock of the Long Now Mechanical clock designed to keep time for 10,000 years

The Clock of the Long Now, also called the 10,000-year clock, is a mechanical clock under construction that is designed to keep time for 10,000 years. It is being built by the Long Now Foundation. A two-meter prototype is on display at the Science Museum in London. As of June 2018, two more prototypes are on display at The Long Now Museum & Store at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco.

Horology is the study of the measurement of time. Clocks, watches, clockwork, sundials, hourglasses, clepsydras, timers, time recorders, marine chronometers, and atomic clocks are all examples of instruments used to measure time. In current usage, horology refers mainly to the study of mechanical time-keeping devices, while chronometry more broadly includes electronic devices that have largely supplanted mechanical clocks for the best accuracy and precision in time-keeping.

Photometry (optics) science of the measurement of light

Photometry is the science of the measurement of light, in terms of its perceived brightness to the human eye. It is distinct from radiometry, which is the science of measurement of radiant energy in terms of absolute power. In modern photometry, the radiant power at each wavelength is weighted by a luminosity function that models human brightness sensitivity. Typically, this weighting function is the photopic sensitivity function, although the scotopic function or other functions may also be applied in the same way.

Timer device that automatically times a process or event or activates an operation or another device at a preset time or times

A timer is a specialized type of clock used for measuring specific time intervals. Timers can be categorized into two main types. A timer which counts upwards from zero for measuring elapsed time is often called a stopwatch, while a device which counts down from a specified time interval is more usually called a timer. A simple example of this type is an hourglass. Working method timers have two main groups: Hardware and Software timers.

Egg timer

An egg timer or kitchen timer is a device the primary function of which is to assist in timing during cooking; the name comes from the first timers initially being used for the timing of cooking eggs. Early designs simply counted down for a specific period of time. Some modern designs can time more accurately by depending on water temperature rather than an absolute time.

A chip log, also called common log, ship log, or just log, is a navigation tool mariners use to estimate the speed of a vessel through water. The word knot, to mean nautical mile per hour, derives from this measurement method.

Time discipline Social rules and conventions governing time

In sociology and anthropology, time discipline is the general name given to social and economic rules, conventions, customs, and expectations governing the measurement of time, the social currency and awareness of time measurements, and people's expectations concerning the observance of these customs by others.

A sandglass is a device for measuring time, including:

Automaton clock

An automaton clock or automata clock is a type of striking clock featuring automatons. Clocks like these were built from the 1st century BC through to Victorian times in Europe. A Cuckoo clock is a simple form of this type of clock.

An hourglass or hour glass is one of the oldest devices for measuring time; the marine hourglass is one example. The term "hourglass" is also used to describe an elongated, curved, mirror-image shape with a narrow middle; see Glossary of shapes with metaphorical names.

Marine chronometer

A marine chronometer is a timepiece that is precise and accurate enough to be used as a portable time standard; it can therefore be used to determine longitude by means of accurately measuring the time of a known fixed location, for example Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and the time at the current location. When first developed in the 18th century, it was a major technical achievement, as accurate knowledge of the time over a long sea voyage is necessary for navigation, lacking electronic or communications aids. The first true chronometer was the life work of one man, John Harrison, spanning 31 years of persistent experimentation and testing that revolutionized naval navigation and enabling the Age of Discovery and Colonialism to accelerate.

History of timekeeping devices Wikimedia history article

For thousands of years, devices have been used to measure and keep track of time. The current sexagesimal system of time measurement dates to approximately 2000 BC from the Sumerians.

Oil-lamp clock

Oil-lamp clocks are clocks consisting of a graduated glass reservoir to hold oil - usually whale oil, which burned cleanly and evenly - supplying the fuel for a built-in lamp. As the level in the reservoir dropped, it provided a rough measure of the passage of time.

The sands of time is an English idiom relating the passage of time to the sand in an hourglass.

The Lyon astronomical clock is a fourteenth-century astronomical clock in Lyon Cathedral.

References

Antique sandglasses Sanduhren.jpg
Antique sandglasses
  1. 1 2 F.J.Britten (190x). OLD CLOCKS AND WATCHES & THEIR MAKERS. LONDON, B. T. BATSFORD, 94 HIGH HOLBORN. pp. 16 and 249.
  2. Orton, Fred; Wood, Ian; Lees, Clare A. (2008-02-01). Fragments of history: rethinking the Ruthwell and Bewcastle monuments. Manchester University Press. ISBN   9780719072574.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Mills, A.A.; Day, S.; Parkes, S. (1996). "Mechanics of the sandglass" (PDF). European Journal of Physics. 17. pp. 97–109. Bibcode:1996EJPh...17...97M. doi:10.1088/0143-0807/17/3/001.
  4. Frugoni, Chiara (1988). Pietro et Ambrogio Lorenzetti. Scala Books. p. 83. ISBN   0-935748-80-6.
  5. 1 2 Anthony John Turner (1993). Of Time and Measurement: Studies in the History of Horology and Fine Technology. Ashgate Publishing Company. ISBN   978-0-86078-378-7.
  6. 1 2 Nicolas, Nicholas Harris (1847). A History of the Royal Navy, from the earliest times to the wars of the French revolution, vol. II. London: Richard Bentley. p. 476.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Balmer, R.T. "The Operation of Sand Clocks and Their Medieval Development." Technology and Culture, Vol. 19, No. 4 (Oct., 1978), pp. 615-632 Balmer, R. T. "The Operation of Sand Clocks and Their Medieval Development." Technology and Culture, Vol. 19, No. 4 (Oct., 1978), pp. 615-632.
  8. http://www.madehow.com/Volume-5/Hourglass.html
  9. Peterson, Ivars. "Trickling sand: how an hourglass ticks". Science News, Vol. 144, No. 11 (September 11, 1993). p. 167
  10. Pigafetta (1874). The First Voyage Around the World, 1519-1522. Hakluyt Society Press. pp. A12.
  11. Bergreen, Laurence (2003). Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe . William Morrow. ISBN   0-06-621173-5.
  12. "Four-way sand glass, Italian, 17th century, image no. 10325648". The Science Museum. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  13. Senate of Australia (26 March 1997). "Official Hansard" (PDF): 2472. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 April 1998.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. Herbst, Sharon Tyler (2001). The New Food Lover's Companion . Barron's Educational Series.
  15. Room, Adrian (1999). Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. New York: HarperCollinsPublishers. "Time is getting short; there will be little opportunity to do what you have to do unless you take the chance now. The phrase is often used with reference to one who has not much longer to live. The allusion is to the hourglass."
  16. Ewbank, Thomas (1857). A Descriptive and Historical Account of Hydraulic and Other Machines for Raising Water, Ancient and Modern With Observations on Various Subjects Connected with the Mechanic Arts, Including the Progressive Development of the Steam Engine. Vol. 1. New York: Derby & Jackson. p. 547. "Hour-glasses were formerly placed in coffins and buried with the corpse, probably as symbols of mortality—the sands of life having run out. See Gent. Mag. vol xvi, 646, and xvii, 264."
  17. Splendid Heritage: treasures of native american art (search on "hourglass")
  18. Wishart, David J. (ed.) Encyclopedia of the Great Plains University of Nebraska Press (2004) ISBN   0-8032-4787-7, p125
  19. Philip, Neil The Great Mystery: Myths of Native America, Clarion Books (2001) ISBN   0-395-98405-X, p64-65
  20. Wilson, Lee Ann Nature Versus Culture in Textile Traditions of Mesoamerica and the Andes: An Anthology (ed. Schevill, M.B. et al.), University of Texas Press (1996) ISBN   0-292-77714-0
  21. An African Valentine: The Bead Code of the Zulus Archived 2008-05-18 at the Wayback Machine , edunetconnect.com
  22. Greenman, E.F. The Upper Palaeolithic and the New World in Current Anthropology Vol. 4, No. 1 (Feb., 1963), pp. 41-91 (NB: includes reviews disputing the central thesis and methodology)- via JSTOR (subscription)
  23. Image, "Croquis 1872" (click to enlarge) Archived 2008-12-08 at the Wayback Machine at colonias.iespana.es
  24. Craig, Barry A Stone Tablet from Buka Island Archived 2008-10-03 at the Wayback Machine in Archaeological Studies of the Middle and Late Holocene, Papua New Guinea (Technical Report 20) (ed. Specht, Jim & Attenbrow, Val) Australian Museum (2007) ISSN   1835-4211

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