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The Monastery And The Clock Essay, Research Paper

“The clock, not the steam engine, is the key machine of the modern industrial age.” (Mumford, “The Monestary and the Clock”, page 326.) represents the thesis of Mumford’s “The Monastery and the Clock”.

Couple of centuries ago it would be hard to find this thesis believable, but in today’s world almost everything is driven by the time and ability to measure the time. Without the invention of the clock would be hard, if not impossible, to imagine the world we have today.

The earliest clocks were very simple, and as the time passed, men found ways to improve the means of measuring time. First clocks used shadow produced by vertical stick to measure time, but this was not very accurate nor could one measure time when there was no sunshine. In the Middle Ages the monasteries of the West introduced bell ringing as a way to measure time. The bells were rung seven times in the period of twenty-four hours. Near the end of tenth centry the first mechanical clock was invented by monk named Gerbert. The clock was working by the means of falling weights and by 1370 it was improved by Heinrich von Wyck in Paris to a well-designed clock as we know it today.

By inventing the mechanical clock there were no obstacles to keep clock working, and the time measuring slowly pushed its way into our everyday lives. At first, only the rich could afford to keep the clock, but little by little everyone started using it until it became a necessity. In today’s world it is almost impossible to imagine living without the clock and the ability to tell the time.

If for some reason, all the clocks and time measuring devices would suddenly disappear from our lives, we would find ourselves in great chaos. Most of our everyday activities depend on time. How would one know when is the time to wake up and go to school or work? How long does the working day last? When is the time to start working? When is the time to stop and go home? And how about the radio programs, television programming, computers…? All of this would have to be redefined without the clock to tell the time. What would happen to our economy which is driven by the stock market?

There is many, many more examples of the chaos that would be created by removing all the clocks and the ability to tell the time. In the world where everything depends on the ability to tell time all those thoughts confirm Mumford’s claim that “one only has to imagine… [the clocks] absence to forsee the speedy collapse of our entire society.”


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