Huygen’s Clock

Ref: Calculus and Analytic Geometry, G B Thomas and Finney, 9th edition.

The problem with a pendulum clock whose bob swings in a circular arc is that the frequency of the swing depends on the amplitude of the spring. The wider the swing, the longer it takes the bob to return to centre.

This does not happen if the bob can be made to swing in a cycloid. In 1673, Chritiaan Huygens (1629-1695), the Dutch mathematician, physicist and astronomer who discovered the rings of Saturn, driven by a need to make accurate determinations of longitude at sea, designed a pendulum clock whose bob would swing in a cycloid. He  hung the bob from a fine wire constrained by guards that caused it to draw up as it swung away from the centre. How were the guards shaped? They were cycloids, too.


Nalin Pithwa.

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