Clocks: Revolution in Time

David Landes asks the questions: Why clocks? Who needs them? After all, nature is the great time-giver and all of us, without exception, live by nature's clock.

Night follows day; day, night; and each year brings its succession of seasons. These cycles are imprinted on just about every living being in what are called circadian ('about a day') and circannual biological rhythms. They are stamped in our flesh and blood; they persist even when we are cut off from time cues; they mark us as earthlings. These biological rhythms are matched by societal work patterns: day is for labour, night for repose, and the round of seasons is a sequence of warmth and cold, planting and harvest, life and death. Into this natural cycle, which all people have experienced as a divine providence, the artificial clock enters as an intruder.

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