al-Jazari, Ibn al-Razzaz

SUBJECT AREA: Horology
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fl. c.1200 Arabia
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Arab mechanician who constructed a series of ingenious water clocks with automata.
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Al-Jazari entered the service of the Artuqid Kings of Diyar Bakir c.1180. In 1206 the then King, Nasir al-Din, instructed him to write a book describing the things he had constructed, among which were six water clocks. The timekeeping mechanism of these clocks was not innovative and was derived from earlier Hellenistic examples. Unlike Chinese and Hellenistic water clocks, al-Jazari's clocks had no astronomical indications and were intended to display the time, in temporal or unequal hours, both audibly and visually in an arresting and entertaining manner. The timekeeping was controlled by the flow of water from a vessel which contained a float to operate the clock mechanism. An ingenious device was used to ensure that the flow of water was constant during the day and could be set to a different constant flow during the night, to allow for the variation in the length of the temporal hours. Al-Jazari's clocks have not survived, but models have been constructed from the description and illustrations in the manuscripts.
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Bibliography
1206, The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices (an annotated translation by D.R.Hill was published in Dordrecht in 1974).
Further Reading
D.R.Hill, 1979, The Country Life International Dictionary of Clocks, ed. Alan Smith, London, pp. 130, 135 (a very brief but more accessible account).
——1981, Arabic Water-Clocks, Aleppo.
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Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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