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On Time

A History of Western Timekeeping

Ken Mondschein
foreword by Neal Stephenson

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An approachable, accessible history of timekeeping and the impact of the increasing precision and accuracy of time on humanity.

Western culture has been obsessed with regulating society by the precise, accurate measurement of time since the Middle Ages. In On Time, Ken Mondschein explores the paired development of concepts and technologies of timekeeping with human thought. Without clocks, he argues, the modern world as we know it would not exist. From the astronomical timekeeping of the ancient world to the tower clocks of the Middle Ages to the seagoing chronometer, the quartz watch, and the…

An approachable, accessible history of timekeeping and the impact of the increasing precision and accuracy of time on humanity.

Western culture has been obsessed with regulating society by the precise, accurate measurement of time since the Middle Ages. In On Time, Ken Mondschein explores the paired development of concepts and technologies of timekeeping with human thought. Without clocks, he argues, the modern world as we know it would not exist. From the astronomical timekeeping of the ancient world to the tower clocks of the Middle Ages to the seagoing chronometer, the quartz watch, and the atomic clock, greater precision and accuracy have had profound effects on human society—which, in turn, has driven the quest for further precision and accuracy. This quest toward automation—which gave rise to the Gregorian calendar, the factory clock, and even the near-disastrous Y2K bug—has led to profound social repercussions and driven the creation of the modern scientific mindset.

Surveying the evolution of the clock from prehistory to the twenty-first century, Mondschein explains how both the technology and the philosophy behind Western timekeeping regimes came to take over the entire world. On Time is a story of thinkers, philosophers, and scientists, and of the thousand decisions that continue to shape our daily lives.

Reviews

Reviews

That On Time is interactive is certainly a bonus. Mondschein provides activities, or exercises, to bring alive the abstract concepts and scientific observations he describes in each chapter—a fabulous idea that should be more widely adopted if a subject lends itself to this type of experimentation.

engaging book

What a joyously meticulous history of how we've understood time! I can't look at anything between a sundial and a Swatch the same way.

This energetic book explores how we acquired 'our' time, when and why this occurred, and what errors needed correcting along the way. Mondschein tells these fascinating stories in ways that illuminate their historical, technological, scientific, philosophical, sociological, and theological aspects. This is a fun book that invites the cliché, 'It's about time.'

Mondschein moves effortlessly and engagingly between technical definitions and social implications, offering both a history of the science and technology of timekeeping and an exploration of the enduring impact of time as it keeps on slipping into the future.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
256
ISBN
9781421438276
Illustration Description
24 b&w illus.
Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Foreword, by Neal Stephenson
Acknowledgments
Chapter 1. Scholars and Spheres
Chapter 2. Cities and Clocks
Chapter 3. Savants and Springs
Chapter 4. Navigators and Regulators
Chapter 5

List of Illustrations
Foreword, by Neal Stephenson
Acknowledgments
Chapter 1. Scholars and Spheres
Chapter 2. Cities and Clocks
Chapter 3. Savants and Springs
Chapter 4. Navigators and Regulators
Chapter 5. Rationalization and Relativity
Appendix. Chapter Exercises
Glossary
Notes
Suggested Further Reading
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Kenneth Mondschein PhD

Historian Ken Mondschein is a full-time contingent faculty member who teaches at the University of Massachusetts–Mount Ida, Boston University, and Anna Maria College. He is the editor and translator of Fencing: A Renaissance Treatise and the cotranslator of Flowers of Battle, Volume III: Florius de Arte Luctandi.