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BA340_D2 Strategic Thinking and Innovation- Week 5: Discussion 3: HWGTN: Time

In the “Time” episode of How We Got to Now, which two of the innovations mentioned do you think are the most important? Who invented them to the progression of how we got to now with the innovation of "time?"

Again, it must be clear that you actually viewed these videos through your writing and examples in order to get any credit for this discussion question.


The two important inventions in HWGTN – Time are the pendulum clock and the marine chronometer. Galileo initially discovered that the period of a pendulum's swing is independent of its amplitude, the arc of the swing and the pendulum's isochronism. This discovery had far-reaching ramifications for time interval measuring. It's the first time a pendulum had been used to govern the rate of a clock. Galileo had noticed that the time it took a pendulum to complete one swing was almost independent of the arc in which it swung, and he had timed different astronomical occurrences with a freely swinging pendulum. He saw the possibilities of employing a pendulum to control a clock, but he died before completing his work.

15 years later Christian Huygen invented the first true the pendulum clock. Because time was so important to his observations, his interest in astronomy led him to the accurate measurement of time. Galileo's discovery of isochronism (pendulums of the same length have the same oscillation period) also triggered his interest. His clocks were significantly more precise than the common spring-driven table clocks of the time, with a daily drift of only fifteen seconds vs fifteen minutes for other methods of timekeeping. Further developments improved the accuracy to the point where pendulum clocks dominated the timekeeping industry for hundreds of years, until the quartz clock was invented. The invention improved healthcare since doctors were able to measure a patient’s pause using the clock.

Before Galileo died, he tried to figure how navigators can calculate their longitude. 100 years later, John Harrison, an Englishman, invented the first practical marine chronometer, which allowed sailors to accuratley calculate their longitude at sea. Harrison set out to create a portable clock that could keep time to within three seconds each day in order to overcome the problem of longitude. This would make it far more precise than even the most advanced watches of the period. The marine chronometer device was powered by the motion of a ship rather than gravity. It was so accurate that mariners could use it as a portable time standard, comparing their local time to Greenwich Mean Time to determine their longitude, or east-west location on the Earth. Before the invention of the chronometer, sailors used local time on the ship and the exact time where they left port. The ended up lost with no accurate time.


Johnson [Stephen]. (2010, July). Watch how we got to now with steven johnson, season 1 | prime video. Retrieved November 10, 2021, from (Links to an external site.)

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