The Corpus Clock

corpus clock at night

I love this clock. It is eccentric and a bit bonkers. It’s not about telling the time in the normal sense. In essence it is about how time eats and devours the seconds, minutes and hours. The hour is tolled by a chain clanking into a small wooden coffin, hidden away in the back of the clock. It is encased in a window for all to see out- side the Taylor Library at Corpus Christi College, looking out over King’s Parade. It often has a crowd of people around it taking photos. It was unveiled in 2008 by Stephen Hawking. The idea and funding came from John C Taylor, an old member of the college.

The face is 24-carat gold-plated stainless steel. It doesn’t have traditional hands or numerals. Instead there are 3 concentric rings for hours, minutes and seconds. The fantastic metal grasshopper like insect on the top is a Chronophage, which means time eater in the Greek. It’s mouth eats up time and it sometimes blinks. The insect is known as Rosalind by local students.

The inscription at the bottom reads ‘mundus transit et concupiscentia eius’ which means ‘the world and it’s desires pass away’. The making of the clock is very interesting. The grasshopper escapement is a mecha- nism for converting pendulum motion into rotational motion, invented by John Harrison in the 18th Century. The whole clock is completely mechanical, with no computing. The only electricity is to wind up the mech- anism and power the blue lights. Taylor invested 5 years of his life and £1 million pounds. 200 people were involved in the making. Taylor’s wealth came from inventing controls for electric tea kettles.

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