Previous Events

  • 11 January 2020 – Speaker Dr Tacye Phillipson, National Museum of Scotland.  ‘The 1662 Bruce-Oosterwijck Timepiece: Acquiring and Displaying the Relic of an Unsuccessful Quest for Longitude’

At the end of 2018 the National Museum of Scotland managed to acquire one of only two 17th century sea clocks apparently still in existence.  Tacye explained that this 1662 timepiece represented the first attempt at establishing longitude at sea using a mechanical clock, almost 100 years before this was successfully achieved by John Harrison with H4.  Although we now know that such a clock was never going to work satisfactorily, this was a serious attempt to solve the longitude problem using the latest technology of the day (the first pendulum clocks were just starting to be introduced).  Tacye made the point that failures in trying to solve the longitude problem contributed just as much to the ultimate solution of the problem as were the many successes.

The talk described the history of the clock from its commissioning by Alexander Bruce, Second Earl of Kincardine, a member of the Royal Stewart court in exile in the Hague and a founder members of the Royal Society,  through its many alterations and repairs (which are the subject of more research) until it was acquired by the National Museum of Scotland.

An interesting and lengthy discussion followed that touched on several of the points in Tacye’s presentation, not least the issue of conservation versus restoration.

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