Clockwork Before the Clock and Timekeepers Before Timekeeping

  • D. de Solla Price


The object of this paper is to bring new evidence to bear upon the origin of timekeepers, and to show from this that a particular technology, the making of astronomical models, has been crucial. The techniques of these models have brought about a change in Man’s dealing with time at the deepest philosophical and personal levels. Our thesis, in brief, is that timekeeping was invented from and because of a prior available technology during the first century B.C.


Gear Train Fourth Century Gear Wheel Differential Gear Zodiacal Sign 
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  1. 1.
    Derek de Solla Price: “Automata and the Origins of Mechanism and Mechanistic Philosophy,” Technology and Culture V (1964), 9–23.Google Scholar
  2. Derek de Solla Price: “On the Origin of Clockwork, Perpetual Motion Devices and the Compass,” United States National Museum Bulletin 218: Contributions from the Museum of History and Technology, Paper 6, Washington, D.C. 1959, 81–112.Google Scholar
  3. Derek de Solla Price: Science Since Babylon,New Haven: Yale University Press 1961, chapter 2: 23–44.Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    Sharon Gibbs: “Greek and Roman Sundials,” Doctoral Dissertation, Department of History and Medicine, Yale University, University Microfilms Dissertation No. 73–14334, 1972.Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    e.g. See C. Hose and W. McDougall: Pagan Tribes of Borneo, London: Macmillan 1912.Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    Joseph V. Noble and Derek de Solla Price: “The Water Clock in the Tower of Winds,” American Journal of Archaeology 72 (1968), 345–55.Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    The✩, ✡, and✡ and Other Geometrical and Scientific Talismans and Symbolisms,” Changing Perspectives in the History of Science, Essays in Honour of Joseph n’“edham,(eds. Mikulas Teich & Robert Young) London: Heinemann Educational Books 1973,250–64.Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    Early accounts of my researches on this instrument have appeared in “An Ancient Greek Computer,” Scientific American 201 (1959), 60–67, and Science Since Babylon,New Haven: Yale University Press 1961, chapter 2: 23–44; the new evidence will be published in a full monograph later in 1974 in Transactions of the American Philosophical SocietyGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. de Solla Price

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