Thursday 17 January 2019

How Time Was Invented

Let us settle down now and learn some history together. Have you ever wondered how we first learnt to measure time?

Here's a quick lesson you'll never forget. At the end of this session you'll say, "well that was a waste of time wasn't it?"

Many years ago at the time of the Romans there was an Italian called Role. He was the tenth son of a tenth generation of men called Role - in fact he was known as Role the Tenth. Which in Roman times was written Role X.

Anyway Role X, and everyone else for that matter, noticed that it was sometimes daylight and sometimes night. "But how do we measure such a recurring occurrence to see how long is daytime compared to night time." thought Role X.

So he asked the opinion of his friend Galileo who at the time was looking up at the sky and wondering why the sun was always in different locations.

This is not the Galileo physicist, mathematician, astronomer and philosopher who lived between 1564 and 1642 - but most probably an earlier ancestor of his; which shows that the Galileo family were very clever for generations. But I digress.

Anyway, after a short discussion with Galileo, Role X planted a big candle which he had borrowed from his local church right in the middle of his garden. (The candle was in the middle of the garden - not the church. Just pay attention).

He measured the candle carefully. He waited until the sun was right above the candle, (i.e. no shadow), and he lit the large candle and left it lit until the following day when the candle had no shadow again. He then blew the candle out and measured the bit that was left. From this he deduced how much candle had burnt over the period it was lit.

He then got another candle with exactly the same dimensions and marked with his pen 24 equal segments from top to bottom. That's the candle's bottom not his bottom that he marked! Are you really paying attention? This is important.

He called each segment "hours"; or because he was Italian he called them "zee hours!"

He quite rightly thought that if he lit the new candle at the same time as the previous day, (i.e. no shadow), he will call that MIDDAY and then every segment as it burnt down would be an HOUR, until the following day when there will be no more segments on the candle; and when there was no shadow (i.e. MIDDAY again).

Role X decided he'd call the 24 segments one DAY; or in Italian "Uno day!"

Are you still paying attention? Good.

So, Role X having set up the candle with 24 sections he waited until it was midday and he lit the candle to certify his experiment of measuring time would work. But the experiment did not work because it was windy that night and the candle blew out.

He went to church and took a third candle. By this time, the priest, (in Italian "il priest"), was getting fed up selling candles to Role X; so he increased the price to two liras a candle!

Role X prepared a third candle like before by marking it from top to bottom. This time he kept the candle indoors. Again the experiment did not work because the sun did not cast a shadow indoors. So another candle was wasted.

In total desperation, Role X invented the watch and solved all his problems about time.

The early Role X watches required a big pendulum worn by the Romans around their necks, (under their togas), swinging left and right to keep time and to wind the watch.
Unfortunately, this proved very unpopular with the Emperor, and embarrassing, to have a big pendulum swinging to and fro under his toga as he walked. That period in history is known as the "Swinging 60s (AD)"

The very angry Emperor commanded Role X to improve on his invention.

The watchmaker designed a new model whereby Romans would walk around all day swinging their arms instead; and this movement would wind the watches on their wrists.

Sadly, this meant that many careless citizens swung their arms in other peoples' faces and the hospitals were full of casualties as a result of this new fad of wearing a time piece as a bracelet. The Emperor banned all swinging in public, whether by hands or under the toga, and commanded Role X to develop another time piece.

That's when Role X invented the electric, battery operated, wrist watch. The early models required a big and heavy battery the same size as the ones used to power cars these days. Many Romans developed hernias and back problems having to carry such heavy contraptions around.

Since then Role X and his family went on to develop arguably the best watches in the world.

Well ... I did promise you a quick lesson you'll never forget. Go buy yourself a watch and forget about lighting candles in the wind.


  1. I'm still confused. BTW, you can buy a Role X on the street in NYC for only about $10...they work for about a week. Zee Week in Italy.

    I want to know in these days of computers why they can't add a little to every second and eliminate Feb 29 every four years.

    1. You raise a very pertinent point JoeH about the extra seconds. Actually, scientists do that every so often because the earth is slowing down. Yes, as it revolves around itself, and the sun, it is slowing down every year.

      Coincidentally, (I really can't believe this), I have just finished writing a post about this very subject due to be posted here tomorrow. You must be psychic having foreseen what I am writing.

      See you tomorrow. God bless.

  2. I always wondered how Role X got started. :)
    Thanks for the lesson, Victor.

    1. They now make very good watches. Quite some progress from the old Roman pendulum models.

      God bless you, Bill.

  3. I was quite mesmerised by the candle in this post ...
    Thanks for the lesson.

    All the best Jan

  4. I just look at my phone to see what time it is. I never though I'd say that!! :)

    1. I can't work out these new phones. Whenever I need to know the time I press the wrong button and take a photo of myself.

      God bless you, Happyone.

  5. You forgot the part about needing to wind the watches.

    1. It was the wind which blew out the candle.

      God bless you, Kathy.


  6. ;-D


    Think how young we would be if they hadn't invented time.

    1. Exactly Sandi. You understand me very well. If there was no time we would all remain young.

      God bless you.

  7. When you are retired, the time ceases to matter. Well that's what my non OCD retired friends tell me anyway!
    Blessings, My Friend!

    1. When you're retired nothing really matters. Not just time. Nothing matters. It is a question of mind over matter. I don't mind and they don't matter.

      God bless you, Lulu.

  8. Replies
    1. It was educational, Mevely. I learnt a lot whilst writing it that I did not know before. Sometimes I am amazed at how much I know which I did not know that I know.

      God bless you my smiling friend.

  9. Your "timing" was perfect with this one, Victor! Blessings!

    1. I timed this post using a lit candle AND a Role X watch.

      God bless you, Martha.

  10. Laughing at your post and at all the comments!! Always a good time here, Victor!!



God bless you.