6 Clever Time Keeping Instruments Invented By Man

Read this article, here are some examples of clever time-keeping instruments invented by man.

Keeping track of the time is simple these days, thanks to low-cost wristwatches and the omnipresent cell phone clock. Previously, humans had to rely on the sun's shadows, the melting of a candle, or even the various aromas of incense. Here are some instances of outdated timekeeping, including a few that we should probably not bring back.


Sundials have been used since antiquity, with the main assumption being that a central gnomon casts a shadow from the sun to measure time. While the Greeks and Romans installed them across towns and the aristocracy had pocket models, more unusual examples came later, such as a solar cannon sundial from the nineteenth century that fired a miniature gun when the sun's heat concentrated on a lens.
The Jantar Mantar in Jaipur is the world's largest stone sundial, built in the early 18th century. It is 73 feet long and has 20 astronomical instruments. Meanwhile, the Taipei 101, which was the world's tallest building until it was overtaken by Dubai's Burj Khalifa in 2004, serves as a massive sundial, casting a shadow on a circular park below.


Built-in the 17th century, the sundial at Queen's College in Cambridge, England, can also be read as a moondial. It's built into a brick wall and features a moon table that connects the moon's phase to the apparent lunar time based on moonlight, which should help you figure out what time of night it is. The Queen's College website contains extensive information about how it works.


They aren't just immovable monuments; they cast extended shadows that are ideal for timekeeping. When the Greek philosopher Eratosthenes computed the Earth's circumference, he used obelisks and the knowledge that while one obelisk in Syene might not have a shadow on the Summer Solstice, another in Alexandria would. In Paris, an obelisk is still used as a sundial: the Luxor Obelisk in the Place de la Concorde aligns its shadow with points on the sidewalk to indicate passersby the time.


After dusk, a sundial becomes quite ineffective, therefore another old timekeeping device arose. The water clock has been around since at least 1500 BCE, with the basic premise being a mechanism that employs the consistent flow of water to depict the passage of time. Water clocks appeared throughout antiquity, from Egypt to Greece to the Arabic lands, and became rather extraordinary: Al-Jazari created a towering water clock on top of a mechanical elephant in the 13th century.


The incense clock originated in China and extended to Japan and other Asian countries during the Song era (960-1279). Although each version used incense to mark time, the system was frequently different. Some clocks used changing colors of smoke to signal the time, others burned markers or alarms, and a few even used distinct incense aromas to make the user olfactorily aware of the passage of time.


Have you ever seen the Times Square Ball drop on New Year's Eve? You are watching a rare instance of time ball timekeeping, a 19th-century procedure in which big metal or wooden balls would drop at a specific hour to synchronize navigators' marine chronometers. The first time ball is thought to have been erected in 1829 near Portsmouth, England; most that followed were likewise visible from the sea.
By the 1920s, radio and other technological advances had rendered them obsolete. Although the Times Square version is merely a novelty—no one starts their clock by it—there are still time balls that serve as nostalgia attractions. The time ball at London's Royal Observatory Greenwich falls at 1 p.m. every day, just as it has since 1833.

Final Words

"Time is money," as the saying goes, but the history of clocks is long and fascinating. Keeping track of time was one of humanity's first innovations, and it has gone a long way since antiquity.
Early solutions included using the Sun's shadow and water clocks, but they proved untrustworthy for accurate timekeeping. Mechanical clocks originally appeared in the Middle Ages, and the pendulum clock became the standard timepiece for hundreds of years.