Some new insights into the history of the Glasgow time ball and time guns

Kinns, R. and Clarke, D. (2012) Some new insights into the history of the Glasgow time ball and time guns. Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, 15, pp. 59-67.

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The 1857 time ball machinery at the Glasgow Sailors’ Home was supplied by Alexander McKenzie, mechanist, using a design that had much in common with the 1853 Edinburgh apparatus. It was operated using electrical connections to a mean time clock in the Home. This clock required adjustment by hand each day to compensate for its losing rate. Such manual intervention and lack of independent verification of accuracy undermined the authority of the signal. The relative prestige of the Glasgow and Edinburgh Observatories was an important issue. There was no telegraphic link between Glasgow Observatory and the City until the end of 1863, but it had been demonstrated as early as October 1855 that a time ball could be dropped by telegraph from Edinburgh. Another Edinburgh initiative in September 1863 using time guns fired from Edinburgh caused offence in Glasgow and the trials were terminated in February 1864. Professor Grant, Director of Glasgow Observatory, argued successfully that a system of slave clocks controlled from Glasgow Observatory would be far superior to either a time ball or time guns which only provided a signal once per day. He won the debate in March 1864.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Clarke, Dr David
Authors: Kinns, R., and Clarke, D.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Physics and Astronomy
Research Group:Physics and Astronomy
Journal Name:Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage
Publisher:National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand

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