Candle clock

Way of measuring time using a burning candle

An example of a German candle clock

A candle clock is a thin candle with consistently spaced marking that, when burned, indicates the passage of periods of time. While no longer used today, candle clocks provided an effective way to tell time indoors, at night, or on a cloudy day.

Al-Jazari\'s candle clock

The most sophisticated candle clock known to date, however, was that of Al-Jazari in 1206. It included a dial to display the time and, for the first time, employed a bayonet fitting, a fastening mechanism still used in modern times. The English engineer and historian Donald Routledge Hill described one of al-Jazari\'s candle clocks as follows:

The candle, whose rate of burning was known, bore against the underside of the cap, and its wick passed through the hole. Wax collected in the indentation and could be removed periodically so that it did not interfere with steady burning. The bottom of the candle rested in a shallow-dish that had a ring on its side connected through pulleys to a counterweight. As the candle burned away, the weight pushed it upward at a constant speed. The automata were operated from the dish at the bottom of the candle.


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