Chronograph

Chronograph

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Description
John Locke, a physician and scientist in Cincinnati, realized that, by using an electromagnetic telegraph, astronomical clock, circuit-breaking device, and recording mechanism, he could record the time of an event such as the passage of a star over the meridian. With such a device, moreover, one could compare transit observations made in different observatories, and thus determine the longitudinal difference between the two locations. That was in 1848. Matthew Fontaine Maury, the first Director of the U.S. Naval Observatory, recognized the significance of the invention, and termed it an electromagnetic chronograph.
William Cranch Bond, the clockmaker who served as the first director of the Harvard College Observatory, took up the challenge of improving the form. Together with his son, George Phillips Bond, he invented a break circuit device (also known as a spring governor or magnetic register). A Bond chronograph of this sort device earned a Council Medal at the Crystal Palace Exhibition held in London in 1851.
Bond chronographs were installed in several astronomical observatories. This example was made around 1853 for Haverford College, in Haverford, Pennsylvania. An early account reported that, by means of this instrument, “the observer is enabled, by merely touching a spring, to secure a record of the time of the observation to the tenth of a second, without taking his eye from the instrument.”
Ref: “Haverford School,” Friends’ Review (June 21, 1856): 646-647. Observatory built in 1853, and the Bond Register was expected shortly.
Ian Bartky, Selling the True Time: Nineteenth Century Time-Keeping in America (Stanford, 2000).
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
chronograph, drum
date made
early 1850s
maker
William Bond & Son
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Boston
Measurements
overall: 12 3/8 in x 25 in x 25 in; 31.4325 cm x 63.5 cm x 63.5 cm
ID Number
1981.0745.09.01
catalog number
1981.0745.09.01
accession number
1981.0745
Credit Line
Haverford College
subject
Science & Scientific Instruments
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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