Centuries of Telling Time - 1957
Centuries of Telling Time – 1957

In this short newsreel from 1957, we visit San Francisco’s Academy of Sciences as it exhibits the Horological Collection of Dr. William Barclay Stephens.

Dr. Stephens incredible collection of clocks is a testament of the true art and history of our never-ending attempt to measure and capture time.

A labor of love, for over fifty years Dr. Stephens built a vast medley of horological devices, from sundials to hourglasses, from clocks that run on burning oil to clock that indicate the time by striking a match.

He had acquired a sun driven clock that uses a magnifying glass to launch a mini-charge from a tiny cannon to indicate that it was noon.

And then there is the gravity clock of which the inertia of its motor keeps it steadily moving down a plank over a twelve hour period.

Centuries of Telling Time - 1957
Centuries of Telling Time – 1957

Brail watches for the blind, watches that weigh as much as two pounds.

The pendulum became the most important element in maintaining time keeping, as seen in the ornate elephant clock in the exhibit.

It was Galileo who observed a swaying chandelier and began to understand the physics of pendulums.

That is, pendulums of equal length always swing at equal time.

Then again, you can always cast off the manmade notion of time, like Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, where he wrote about the best minds of his generation,

who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot for Eternity outside of Time, & alarm clocks fell on their heads every day for the next decade …