c. 1350–1400, Middle English clokke, clok, cloke, from Middle Dutch clocke (“bell, clock”), from Old Northern French cloque (“bell”), from Medieval Latin clocca, probably of Celtic origin, from Proto-Celtic *klokkos (“bell”) (compare Welsh cloch, Irish clog), from Proto-Indo-European *klēg-, *klōg-. Related to Old English clucge, Saterland Frisian Klokke (“bell; clock”), Low German Klock (“bell, clock”), German Glocke, Swedish klocka. Related to laugh.
The invention of the mechanical clock in the 13th century initiated a change in timekeeping methods from continuous processes, such as the motion of the gnomon's shadow on a sundial or the flow of liquid in a water clock, to periodic oscillatory processes, such as the swing of a pendulum or the vibration of a quartz crystal, which had the potential for more accuracy. All modern clocks use oscillation.
In a pendulum clock an escape wheel is allowed to rotate through the pitch of one tooth for each double swing of the pendulum and to transmit an impulse to the pendulum to keep it swinging. An ideal escapement would transmit the impulse without interfering with the free swing, and the impulse should be as uniform as possible. The double three-legged gravity escapement, which achieves the second of these but not the first, was invented by Edmund Beckett, afterward Lord Grimthorpe, and used by him for the great clock at Westminster, now generally known as Big Ben, which was installed in 1859. It became the standard for all really accurate tower clocks.
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