Thursday, April 7, 2011

pneumatic cloc post doc

Does this post-doc interest any pneumatic technology lovers?
"The Geography Department of Royal Holloway University of London, are seeking to appoint a Post-Doctoral Research Assistant to work on an AHRC-funded project, ‘Pumping time: geographies of temporal infrastructure in fin-de-si├Ęcle Paris’. This is a project about the histories, geographies, cultures and politics of pneumatic clocks as urban temporal infrastructure. The post is based at Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL). The successful candidate will have experience in archival research, and will be expected to undertake archival work in London and Glasgow libraries. Proficiency in French is also required. The appointment will be for a fixed period of 12 months starting from October 1st 2011. Salary is £32,106 per annum inclusive of London Allowance. Informal inquiries regarding the post can be made to Dr Mustafa Dikec at Further details and an application form are available to download at or by contacting the Recruitment Team by or tel: 01784 414241 Please quote the reference: X0311/6294 Closing date: 12 noon 3rd May 2011 The College is committed to equality and diversity, and encourages applications from all sections of the community."
I have to confess that I had to google the pneumatic clock. I found out from Watchismo Times that the thermo-pneumatic clock works as following:

"At the lower left, shielded by a translucent housing, is a carbon rod resistance that heats the colored alcohol in the glass vessel just above it. This causes some of the alcohol to vaporize, the pressure pushing the liquid up the connecting pipe to the vessel at top right. As the latter gets heavier the wheel bearing the four vessels experiences a torque that rewinds a remontoire spring driving a conventional gear train and escapement. This clock has a pendulum-controlled escapement, but models with balance wheel escapements also existed."

As for the larger clocks in cities, a Nature article from 1880 reported that:
"To distribute the time with accuracy and uniformity in a large city is a problem of great utility and extreme importance. This problem has been all but completely solved by the pneumatic clocks erected since March last in the principal streets of Paris and among a considerable number of subscribers, who, for a halfpenny a day, receive dials with pneumatic receivers established in the public streets and in private buildings."
How curious! I am definitely keen to learn more, and will have to follow the work of this post-doc project closely. Will the wonders of pneumatic technology ever cease to amaze?

Image from Watchismo Times via Boing Boing.

1 comment:

  1. I am the one person in the world who is gutted to not have known about this earlier! Ah, sigh.