Candle Clocks – History and Purpose

Candle clocks are one of the ways ancient people tried to use natural phenomena to accurately record the time during the day. They consist of a long thin candle marked at even intervals. When the candle is lit, it burns at a relatively steady rate, and by tracking where the flame is on you can get a rough estimate of how much time has passed since it was lit.

It is almost impossible to know when the first candle clock was used, as the practice of marking candles may have been used around the world for centuries before it was ever recorded. Our first written reference to the use of a type of candle clock comes from a poem written by the Chinese thinker You Jiangu around AD 520. The work references the candle clock to indicate what time it was in the night when the sun could not be used. We also have evidence that these candles were used in Japan up until around the 10th century AD.

The most famous candle clock was used by King Alfred the Great of England. This clock consisted of six candles, each exactly twelve inches high and exactly the same width. These candles each had 12 marks, with each mark representing twenty minutes and burning the entire candle every four hours. At four hours each, the 6 candles were able to maintain a constant time reading for a full 24 hour period without being refilled. The candles themselves were protected by wooden frames with glass paneling, which made it possible to keep track of time.

In 1206, Al-Jazari made the candle clocks, considered to be the most complex and sophisticated ever made. These clocks used weights and counterweights to move a series of automatons that displayed a reading of the time. As the candle burned, it grew brighter and the counterweights moved, which allowed the device to work. These watches were the first to use a bayonet clasp, a locking mechanism that is still used today.

While candle clocks were relatively accurate, it was still impossible to fully control the rate at which the flame would burn and melt the maximum. The fact that the maximum would melt unevenly could also cause problems with the accuracy of these timepieces. They were generally abandoned in favor of mechanical watches once they became widely available.

Thanks to Joey Pebble | #Candle #Clocks #History #Purpose

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