Past Annual Meetings
2022: Time Travels
Our 2022 Annual Meeting was held in person at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and simultaneously online via Zoom, on Saturday 7 May 2022.
In 2016, talks at the AHS Annual Meeting revolved around the theme of ‘time on the move’. Topics included wristwatches, navigational timekeepers and mail-coach watches – it was the timekeeping technology that was on the move. For our 2022 Annual Meeting, we wanted to look at this the other way around, by considering how people themselves have travelled in the course of horology-related activity.
Joe Smith and Francis Brodie each shone a light on how making and maintaining networks of clocks have always relied on people who travel. This might be to build new clock installations on distant continents or to wind and service clocks in a local area or individual institution. Robert Wren, accompanied by Ron Rose, offered a complementary take. When Robert wanted an insight into the history of London’s Clerkenwell district, he enlisted the support of Ron, whose memories of Clerkenwell’s past are rich in detail. Together, they travelled the area, remembering and recording as they went. A public walking tour followed, enabling others to share the experience.
Still on keeping the past alive through travel, Jane Desborough revealed what is involved in curating an international exhibition. Using the example of the Science Museum’s Ancient Greeks: Science and Wisdom exhibition, she considered the travelling that must take place behind the scenes to allow so many treasures to be assembled in one place. Jane Pedler, on the other hand, described the survey of horological memorials carried out by the Junior Warden of the Clockmakers Company each year.
The final talks in the programme examined how we can learn by travelling. Peter de Clercq set out a story that connected eighteenth-century travel journals with modern-day AHS Study Tours, while for Edward Gillin, the discovery of a nineteenth-century instrument for measuring terrestrial magnetism led him to rework a historic science expedition – in a maritime voyage from England to the southern coast of Africa.
The lectures were as follows:
Joe Smith, 'Time on the Map: Public Clockmaking Across the Globe'
Francis Brodie, 'Still in Demand: Views From a Twenty-First Century Clock-Winder'
Robert Wren with Ron Rose, 'Walking and Remembering Horological Clerkenwell'
Jane Desborough, 'Curating Ancient Greek Science'
Jane Pedler, 'Memorials and Motors: the Clockmakers’ Company Annual Survey'
Peter de Clercq, 'Horology in Eighteenth-Century Travel Journals'
Edward Gillin, 'Reworking a Nineteenth-Century Magnetic Expedition'
AHS members can watch recordings of the seven lectures here.
2021: Time and Observatories
The histories of time and of astronomical observatories are woven tightly together. Since the early days of positional astronomy, clocks have been as important as telescopes in tracking and charting celestial bodies. The rotating Earth, measured at observatories by telescopes, was our measure of time.
By keeping time accurately and precisely, observatories became recognised as centres of time measurement and, as time became an increasingly valuable commodity in the ages of imperial expansion and industrial development, observatories found themselves with a new public role: providers of time signals.
A further role grew up in some observatories – the testing and rating of watches and chronometers, either for national navies or for the watchmaking trade. Observatory time had value and status, though not always without controversy.
The stories of some observatories, such as Greenwich, have been widely told in the English-language literature, but many astronomical institutions around the world are less well known. The circulation of people, techniques and technologies around a global network of observatories and the manufacturers that supplied them with instruments is often overlooked. And studies of rivalry as well as collaboration offer fascinating insights into the social, cultural and political histories of these pioneering scientific institutions.
It was a desire to learn about time and observatories besides the familiar example of Greenwich that prompted the theme for this Annual Meeting, which was held online via Zoom on Saturday 15 May 2021. The lectures were as follows:
David Rooney, 'Observatories, Prestige and Power Politics, From Hulagu Khan to the Space Race’ (this talk replaced the advertised paper by Rossella Baldi, ‘Discovering Chronometry: the Origins of the Neuchâtel Observatory’ – Rossella regretted that she had to withdraw from the meeting in unavoidable circumstances)
Simon Schaffer, 'Doing Time: Clocks and Cosmology in the Australian Penal Colony'
Peter K. Thomas, 'Clockwork-Related Technologies Used in Astronomical Observatories'
Lee Macdonald, 'The Watch and Chronometer-Rating Service of Kew Observatory, 1880s–1912'
Edward Gillin, 'Guns, Bells, Clocks, and Balls: Transmitting Observatory Time Through Sound and Vision Across Victorian Britain'
(We regretted that the paper by Paolo Brenni, 'The Italian Way to Modern Time Standards', could not be presented at this meeting owing to unavoidable circumstances.)
AHS members can watch recordings of the five lectures here.
2020: Time and Observatories
Owing to the Coronavirus situation, the 2020 AHS Annual Meeting, looking at Time and Observatories, was postponed to May 2021. The Society's formal AGM took place by video-conference on Saturday 16 May 2020.
2019: The Life, Work and Context of Alexander Cumming
The 2019 AHS Annual Meeting was held at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, on Saturday 18 May. In August 2017, the Science Museum had unveiled the latest exhibit in its flagship Making the Modern World gallery. Newly on show was a pedestal barograph clock that was previously on loan to the Museum but had recently been permanently acquired with support from the Art Fund and Wolfson Foundation. It dates from 1766 and was made by Alexander Cumming, clockmaker to King George III, and is one of only four of its type known to have been constructed by the London maker.
After Cumming’s death the clock was bought by the famed meteorologist Luke Howard and used to make systematic observations that are among the world’s first urban climate studies. The clock’s exuberant carved mahogany case has been attributed to the esteemed cabinet-maker Thomas Chippendale and displays the detailed craft skill that expressed the status of science in the 18th century.
The acquisition of this crucially important clock prompted the theme of 2019's meeting, which was the second in a series started in 2017 looking in detail at the life and times of celebrated figures in horological history.
The lectures were as follows:
Gloria Clifton, 'A Biographical Sketch of Alexander Cumming, Watchmaker and Mechanician, 1731/2–1814'
Charlotte Rostek, 'The Third Earl of Bute’s Patronage of Alexander Cumming'
Jonathan Betts, 'Alexander Cumming and Precision Timekeeping'
Rebekah Higgitt, 'The Metropolitan Science of Georgian London'
Peter Holmes, 'The Case for Chippendale?'
Alison Boyle, 'The Life of a Cumming Clock: Luke Howard’s Barometric Researches, 1814–1847, and Beyond'
More information is available to download here.
2018: The Legacy of the Massey Family and South-West Lancashire
The year 2018 marked the 250th anniversary of the birth of Edward Massey, a significant and important inventor of a range of horological and nautical devices. Our 2018 Annual Meeting was a two-day event (Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 May 2018) based at the conference centre at Keele University in Staffordshire, and celebrated the contribution of Edward Massey and his family to the field of precision scientific instruments. There was a series of lectures across Saturday and Sunday morning, and an optional banquet on the Saturday evening.
Alan Treherne, 'The Massey Family: a Biographical Overview'
David Penney, 'Edward Massey and the "Liverpool lever" Watch'
Andrew King, 'The Masseys: Ingenious Mechanics and Inventors'
Will Ashworth, 'Innovation in Science, Technology and Navigation: the Role of the State and National Institutions'
John Griffiths, 'Precision Horology and High Quality Affordable Watches: the Essential Tools, Materials and Skills from South-West Lancashire'
Richard Dunn, 'The Massey Family as Designers and Makers of Nautical Instruments: Patent Logs, Sounders and Thermometers'
EVENING BANQUET with a special lecture by AHS President Patricia Fara, 'A Brief History of Magnetic Time'
Gilbert Kelling, 'Full Fathom Five: Timekeeping and Related Techniques in the Evolution of Modern Oceanography'
Paul Marston, 'The Legacy of Jeremiah Horrocks'
Michael Edidin, 'Massey in America: Liverpool Exports of Massey Escapement Watches'
More information on the meeting is available to download here.
2017: A Life in the Day of Josiah Emery
The AHS Annual Meeting held at the National Maritime Museum on Saturday 20 May 2017 looked in detail at Josiah Emery, using a remarkable record of a shop burglary as a guide to consider wider aspects of his daily life. The lectures were as follows:
James Nye, 'A Life in a Day: Josiah Emery, 33 Cockspur Street, 19 March 1781'
Jonathan Betts, 'Josiah Emery: the Watchmaker, his Business and his Clientele'
Peter Guillery, 'Shop-Houses and Built Contexts: Emery’s Premises and Environs'
Lisa White, 'Home and Shop: Interiors of the London Town House of the 1780s'
Roger Smith, 'The Immigrant Craftsman: Emery in London'
Jerry White, 'Crime and Society: The Legal and Political Climate in 1780s London'
More information is available to download here.
2016: Time on the Move, Time Standing Still
The 2016 Annual Meeting, held at the National Maritime Museum on Saturday 14 May, took a broad theme of time relating to movement and stillness. We heard the following talks:
Brian Durrans, 'Freezing Time? A Sceptical Take on Time Capsules'
David Penney, 'Mail Coach Watches'
Richard Edwards, 'The Invention and Early History of the Wristwatch'
Rory McEvoy, 'The Weems / Hour-Angle Watch'
Keith Scobie-Youngs, 'Catastrophe in the Tower'
James Nye, 'Stop All the Clocks'
A fully illustrated report is available to download here.
2015: Time and Transport
This year, the AHS Annual Meeting, held at the National Maritime Museum on Saturday 16 May, looked at time and transport. The lectures were as follows:
Peter Burt, 'Time for Exploring – a Brief Tour of the RGS Explorer’s Watches'
Tabea Rude and Erica Jones, 'Zigzag Control: Regulating Time, Movement and the Merchant Marine in Allied Convoys'
Rory McEvoy, 'Mind How You Perregaux: the Golden Campaign'
Lisa Jardine, 'Too Seasick to Wind the Clocks: the Hooke, Huygens, Moray Sea-Going Pendulum Clock Collaboration'
Jonathan Betts, 'Poles Apart! – the Mysterious Tales of Two Ice-Bound Expedition Chronometers'
James Nye, 'At 60 Miles an Hour the Loudest Noise in this New Rolls-Royce Comes From …'
Full details are available to download here.
2014: Time and the Military
The AHS Annual Meeting for 2014, held at the National Maritime Museum on Saturday 17 May, took the theme of time and the military. We heard the following lectures:
Konrad Knirim, 'Time on the Ground'
David Read, 'Time Management in the Frontlines of War'
Günther Oestmann, 'Towards the "German Chronometer": The Introduction of Precision Timekeeping in the German Mercantile Marine and Imperial Navy in the 19th Century'
Nigel Platt, 'The Clock that Saved Great Britain. The Story of the Royal Air Force Sector Clock'
James Nye, 'Bang on Time'
Full details are available to download here.
2013: Sixtieth Anniversary Convention: French Horology
Keble College, Oxford, was the venue for the two-day AHS Annual Meeting held on 23 and 24 March 2013, marking the Society's sixtieth anniversary. The subject of the meeting was French horology, and the lectures were as follows:
Andrew Crisford, 'Breguet's Inventions'
Michel Hayard, 'Antide Janvier'
Françoise Collanges, 'Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin'
Michael van Gompen, 'Hubert Sarton à Liège'
Ian White, 'Gustave Loup'
2012: Dutch Horology
This year, the broad theme for the AHS Annual Meeting, held on 12 May 2012 at the National Maritime Museum, was Dutch horology. Attendees heard the following lectures:
Sir Arnold Wolfendale, 'The Discovery of Cosmic Rays: the Role of Dutch and British Physicists ... and the Question of "Time"'
Hans van den Ende sr. and Hans van den Ende jr., 'The English Connection – The English Influence on Dutch Clockmaking During the Last Quarter of the 17th Century'
Michiel van Hees, 'Dutch Clocks in the 18th Century – a Split from the English Style'
David Read, 'The Marine Chronometer in the Age of Electricity'
2011: Precision Timekeeping
The AHS Annual Meeting held on 14 May 2011 at the National Maritime Museum took the theme of precision timekeeping, comprising the following lectures:
Sir Arnold Wolfendale, 'Twenty-First Century Timekeeping'
David Higgon, 'Precision Timekeeping: From Bürgi to Graham'
Jonathan Betts, 'Precision Timekeeping: From Maskelyne to Airy'
David Rooney, 'Precision Quartz Timekeeping in Britain, 1930–1960'
2010: German Horology
The 2010 AHS Annual Meeting, held on 29 May at the National Maritime Museum, was a joint event with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Chronometrie (German Society for Horology), and took the broad theme of German horology. The lectures were as follows:
Klaus Schlaefer, 'An Early German Turret Clock'
Ian Fowler, 'The German Longcase Clock'
Andrew King, 'Harrison Pendulum Clock No. 2'