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George Graham - Clockmaker

George Graham, Clockmaker

On the 7th July 1673 George Graham was born in Cumberland and during his lifetime became highly regarded for his work as a clockmaker, inventor and geophysicist.

Graham worked initially as an apprentice and then in partnership with Thomas Tompion, known as the Father of English Clockmakers, and whilst based in London’s Fleet Street was credited with several significant developments in clock making history including the cylinder escapement.  An escapement is the device used in all mechanical clocks and watches to transfer energy to the timekeeping element - either a pendulum or balance wheel, counting oscillations in the process.

Based on a design by Tompion, Graham further developed the escapement with a cylinder shaped balance wheel featuring in the design, this offered a number of improvements on the early Verge escapement then used in the majority of clocks and watches.  The cylinder design ensured greater accuracy than the Verge which featured a weighted bar known as a foliot, and its slimmer design enabled watches to be produced that were far thinner than previously possible.  The cylinder escapement was favoured by the French who addressed the issues of excessive wear by making the design from hardened steel and was also adopted by the Swiss for inclusion in pocket watches and small clocks, high-end designs also featured cylinder escapements made from ruby.

Graham was also responsible for such inventions as the temperature compensated mercury pendulum, used extensively in the clock making trade.

A Fellow of the Royal Society, Graham was highly skilled in the creation of scientific instruments many of which were used at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, he also conducted pioneering research into magnetic fields and their variations.  Graham was also responsible for the creation of the modern day orrery, a mechanical model that demonstrates the movements of the planets and moons within our solar system.

Following his death in November 1751 he was laid to rest together with Thomas Tompion at Westminster Abbey.

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