Dava Sobel, Dr John C. Taylor and grasshoppers…

There are three reasons why I went to listen to Dava Sobel in conversation with Dr John C. Taylor at The National  Museum of Scotland yesterday evening:

1) My  husband is a scientist who loves clocks and astronomy.

2) When Dava Sobel’s Longitude came out my dad liked it so much he passed it on to me to read, so I will always think of Dad when I think of Longitude and Dava Sovel. Dad liked Longitude because it was about his two favourite topics. The first being the sea. The second being successful, self educated people. In case you don’t know, Longitude is the story about the self educated horologist, John Harrison. He invented the first clock to accurately measure time at sea. This meant Longitude at sea could be determined (a big thing in the the 1800’s, let me tell you, when everyone travelled by ship!).

3) Longitude was the first creative non-fiction, sometimes called narrative non-fiction, book I read and I also loved it. Dava Sobel made science and history interesting (and  accessible) to ordinary non-scientific people like me, and continues to do so 🙂


The evening was delightful. Dava Sobel was easy to listen to and talked effortlessly on the life of John Harrison, his invention of  his sea clock, Longitude, the  Grasshopper Escapement, and clocks and space generally (she is an eclipse hunter!). Her fellow speaker, Dr John C. Taylor, was equally eloquent and explained the difference between astronomers and horologists and chatted about space – flying was also mentioned 🙂

 John Taylor is famous for all sorts of things, including the creation of the Corpus Clock, which is a clock and chronophage, and which he describes on his web page as a “time eater”! I’d never heard of it before. As soon as I got home I looked him up on the net and found the YouTube clip below about the Corpus Clock.  It’s amazing!


All in all another excellent National Museum of Scotland RBS talk! BTW: there’s a great wee exhibition of some Harrison clocks and a chronophage at the museum. Worth a look!




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2 Responses to Dava Sobel, Dr John C. Taylor and grasshoppers…

  1. Adrienne Allan says:

    I loved this post Marianne and wish I could turn back time and be there at the Museum to hear Dava Sobel and John Taylor too! XX

    • Marianne Wheelaghan says:

      Thanks for comment, Adrienne. Lovely to hear from you again. We are so lucky in Edinburgh (and surrounds) to have so many different events to chose from:o)

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