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Reflections on the Astronomy of GlasgowA story of some 500 years$
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David Clarke

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748678891

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748678891.001.0001

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Time is of the Essence

Time is of the Essence

(p.221) Chapter 8 Time is of the Essence
Reflections on the Astronomy of Glasgow

David Clarke

Edinburgh University Press

Despite the 1841 remit to supply ‘time’ to the Clyde, the University Observatory only provided services by weekly carrying a chronometer to the City to regulate the Exchange clock and to provide checks for McGregor & Company; by using a transit telescope on their roof, they serviced a one o’ clock time-ball on the Sailors’ Home tower built in 1857. Professor Nichol was unhappy with the situation but could not provide a more robust solution. In 1860, Professor Grant encouraged the City Council to lay telegraphic wires for transmitting time but received poor response. The matter ‘exploded’ with an announcement to test a one o’ clock time-gun under Edinburgh control and authorised by Piazzi Smyth. As ‘Glasgow's Big Bang of 1863’, the anger of the politics of this East/West spat reverberated through editorials and letters in the Herald, one article demeaning the title of Astronomer Royal for Scotland. The University Observatory independently established a three mile telegraphic link to control the College turret clock and another with a seconds' finger, a far means of displaying accurate time over a single daily audio signal. Other public clocks were then networked around the City. The system operated for over 50 years.

Keywords:   One o'clock time-ball, McGregor & Company, Glasgow Sailors' Home, One o'clock time-gun, Piazzi Smyth, Astronomer Royal for Scotland

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