Meddelelser 2008 - Ole Rømers Venner

Meddelelser 2008 - Ole Rømers Venner

Atthough there is no direct evidence, we should not exclude that" indeed, Huygens

not only knew about the clock but had ordered it. As has been referred to above, he

considered in 1679 a clock provided with a large-size balance a more succesful

candidate for finding longitude than with a pendulum and, three years later, this

optimistic view appeared to be supported by actual tests carried out by him. Hence, it

is quite reasonable that he asked Thuret to construct such a large-scale version.

Without doubt, Huygens considered Thuret to be the most able man for the job and,

as we have also seen, he had declared to have no diffrculties to employ 'fhuret after

the latter's written apology.

There are, in my opinion, a few indirect indications in åvour of the view that

Huygens was involved in the constnrction of the clock. Firstly, we saw that Thuret

used capital letters on the narne plate attached to the escapement as he also did for the

signature on the clock owned by Huygens himself, but not in other preserved Thuret

clocks. Secondly, there is the ball-and-socket suspension, also used earlier by

Huygens. Thirdly, still after his return to the l.,letherlands (1681) he preferred balance

springs in the first version of two sea clocks constructed for him by the very able

Hague clockmaker Johannes van Ceulen; however, in view of their temperature

sensitivity, he abandoned them soon in favour of new pendulum constructions.t

7. The clock's significance in the light of later developments

We cannot properly evaluate Huygen's idea of the spring-and-balance construction in

general, and its execution by Thuret in the clock described above in particular,

without considering these achievements in the light of the later development of the

marine chronometer in the eighteenth century. As was mentioned, Huygens believed

his new invention to represent the most promising direction to solve the problem of

measuring longitudes at sea. It seems justified to conclude that he saw mechanical

problems as the major reason why, at that moment, the spring balance could not

compete with the pendulum. [n agreement with his general style of working, he will

have considered these problems as primarily a challenge for clockmakers rather than


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