In the Beginning was Time

The Ancient Egyptians were the first to create 24 hours per day. The benchmark is the sun's shadow and the position of the stars in the sky. They also invented sundials, although other nations such as the Chinese, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans already used these instruments to tell them the time. However, nature knows the seasons, which causes the sun to not always appear or give the right time. 

Thoughts about time are constantly evolving. Not only to determine the morning, afternoon, until the evening but also how to know the timekeeping of hours, minutes, and seconds. 


Observing changes in the sun's shadow is the oldest method of marking changes in time. Sundials, equipped with scales and gnomons, were used as early as the third millennium BC. 

Other nations also have the shape of the sundial. The Greek sundials, called hemispheriums, were usually made of stone. It is shaped like a truncated bowl, complete with gnomons and carvings explaining the 12 hours of the day. Monumental is the sundial from ancient Egypt, which uses obelisks or stone pillars. 

Water Clock

The sundial has a weakness, which is dependent on the weather and sunlight. The development of the science of pneumatics (about air pressure) and hydraulic phenomena became the driving force for the emergence of the water clock. 

This clepsydrae or water clock consists of a simple vessel filled with water that drips out through a funnel. This drop of water is the measure of time. This clock developed in India and China in the first millennium BC. 


Hourglass also do not depend on the weather or the sun. The shape is two glass tubes connected by a narrow tube in the middle. Sand fills the top which will flow down as a marker of time. The Greeks in the third century used hourglass to mark the time of speech in the Senate. While in mainland Europe, the hourglass was developed by Luitprand, a priest at the Chartres cathedral, France.

Candle Clock

To mark the time of prayer at night, the Clunny monastery in Burgundy, a small town in France, burns candles. This custom was common in Christian monasteries in Europe in the Middle Ages. Its use is then widespread in everyday life. For example, it is used to show the duration of the auction of goods and the election of leaders. 


In the late Middle Ages, Europeans began to think of more precise timekeeping. Watchmakers use a serrated wheel to adjust the escapement or movement control device. To maintain the interval of rotation of the teeth. a kind of rod or foliot is installed in a horizontal position. A detailed description of the clock mechanism of this model was written by Giovanni de Dondi, a professor of astronomy from Padua, Italy, in 1364 under the title II Tractus Astarii. 


In 1656, Christiaan Huygens, a Dutch physicist, mathematician, and astronomer, created a new mechanism for clocks: the pendulum. The pendulum is not purely Huygens thought, because it has been discovered by an Italian physicist and astronomer, Galileo Galilei. The heavy foliot was replaced by a pendulum to move the movement of the clock. 19 years later, Huygens invented the hairspring or a kind of thin spring in the clock that functions to control the speed of rotation and balance of the gears. From here developed a small clock that can be tucked into a suit pocket.

Electric Clock

Mechanical clocks with pendulums have a problem with the power source to keep the pendulum moving. A Scottish watchmaker, Alexander Bain, then made a clock model using electric power. It uses electromagnetic energy to drive the movement of the clock. Bain patented his electric clock in 1841.