The Most Important Clock in America: The David Rittenhouse Astronomical Musical Clock at Drexel University (American Philosophical Society Transaction 99-2, ISBN: 1606189921)

July 4, 2010 at 12:30 am Leave a comment

The Most Important Clock in America:
The David Rittenhouse Astronomical Musical Clock at Drexel University

American Philosophical Society (Transaction 99-2, ISBN: 1606189921)
by Ronald R. Hoppes (Paperback, 99 pages, 2009, $35.00)

The Most Important Clock in America

The David Rittenhouse Astronomical Musical Clock, saved by former Drexel University President Constantine Papadakis, is considered to be the “Most Important Clock in America.”

David Rittenhouse, the 18th century’s most important scientist, constructed the clock in 1773. This national historic treasure and engineering masterpiece tells the time, date, positions of the planets, the phases of the moon and signs of the zodiac and plays melodies.

“There were doubts that the United States could achieve the kind of technical engineering and level that was present in Europe at the time,” Baruch Blumberg, President of the American Philosophical Society, told the Philadelphia Inquirer (also in PDF) at a book signing in October. “I think this was an outstanding example that this could be done here – and was done.”

Recently a million dollar restoration kept the clock’s nearly 1,000 original pieces in tact, and the clock is in near-perfect working order.

Author Ronald Hoppes is a retired development engineer with a degree in electrical engineering from Drexel University. An avid clock and tool collector, he makes cabinet and movement replacement parts for clocks that are faithful to the originals.

The book includes a biography of Rittenhouse written by Jacqueline DeGroff, curator of the Drexel Collection (click the link to hear the clock’s chimes), and more than 100 drawings and full-color photographs.

“Hoppes is a retired development engineer who makes cabinet and movement parts for a wide variety of clocks, and he has written this volume on the 1773 Rittenhouse astronomical clock at Drexel U. for fellow enthusiasts and engineers,” writes Book News in a review.

“The author provides detailed drawings and illustrations that document nearly every part of the clock such as the sun-moon dial, the gear trains, the calendar hand, the equation-of-time indicator, the strike operation, the music train and the settings for dial indicators. A brief biography of David Rittenhouse, the designer and builder of the clock, is included.”

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