Protagonist George Crosby's love for repairing clocks is a prominent theme in Tinkers, which includes references to a fictional 1783 book called The Reasonable Horologist.
Horology encompasses both the science of measuring time and the art of making time pieces. Thus, horologists include watchmakers, clockmakers, scholars, scientists and hobbyists. Humans have long been concerned with recording the passage of time - from Stonehenge to calendar stones to sundials and atomic clocks*, civilizations have sought the most precise way to record time. Today, we can pull up the official United States time with just a few keystrokes!
There are numerous museums and libraries around the world devoted to horology and time-keeping instruments. One such is the National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia, Pennsylvania which features regular exhibits, a library of horology materials and is home to the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (NAWCC). Pennsylvania is also home to the Lititz Watch Technicum, which still trains students in the fine art of Swiss watch-making.
*Atomic clocks, considered the most accurate timepieces known, use an atomic resonance frequency standard to keep time. Atomic clocks use the precise microwave signal that electrons emit when they change energy levels; they do not use radioactivity. The first atomic clock was built in 1949 but apparently was not accurate. The first accurate atomic clock, based on caesium-133, was built 6 years later by Louis Essen at the National Physical Laboratory in the UK.
This article was originally published in January 2009, and has been updated for the
January 2009 paperback release.
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