by Jubal Freeman
This is a Verge escapement:
It is one of the most important inventions, and without it we would live in a very different world.
That seems like a lot to say about a little mechanism, so I will explain.
What is it? It is a device invented in the last half of the 13th century to regulate the release of energy in mechanical clocks. Without an escapement a clock, whether gravity or spring driven, would just spin faster and faster until either it’s weights reached the ground (for a gravity-driven clock) or it’s spring ran out (spring-driven). What the escapement does is let out the energy out in short “ticks” so that the clock runs at a constant speed.
Here’s one running:
Why is it important? Because it made mechanical clocks possible, and through that enabled more accurate measurement of time, and helped to drive the development of complex mechanisms. Without the accurate measurement of time scientific progress would have been severely hindered, and without the knowledge of machine design gained from clock-making the industrial revolution would not have been possible.
Now this escapement isn’t perfect, most are only accurate to 15 min. per day and it wears out quickly compared to other types, but it was the start, and without this start, we wouldn’t have our modern world and all of it’s technological wonders.
This is the first in a series of posts following the development of mechanical clocks, and the things that came from them, all the way to computers. Along the way I’ll also look at how the technologies impacted society. There’s more info on the about page.