Why are seconds called seconds? Why not firsts?

| David Lewis | Word & Idioms

---ADVERTISEMENT---

 

Originally a second was known as a ‘second minute’, meaning the second division of an hour. The first division was known as a ‘prime minute’ and is equivalent to the minute we know today.

Prime fell, seconds stuck and the rest is history.

Bonus Fact: have you ever wondered how come every minute is divide into 60 seconds? Why not ten seconds or a hundred seconds?

The answer lies within an ancient civilization that flourished 5,500 years ago in modern-day Iraq. This civilization was called Sumer and Its culture reigned supreme and projected on all surrounding nations. Unlike modern society, the Sumerians practiced a sexagesimal numeral system – a numeral system with six as its base. They were the first to divide the circle into 360 degrees, the day into 24 hours, and the hour into 60 minutes.

Most of us have long forgotten this great civilization, but its legacy remains very much alive every time we take a look at our watch or count in dozens.

---ADVERTISEMENT---

Logo

And for all of you clock-history fricks, here are some alternative time measurement mechanisms:

Sun clock – The first sun clock was very simple. It was an upright stick set in the ground, its shadow falling on a wall or upright stone, on which are carved numbers representing the hours. Because the sun rises in the east and moves westward through the south (in the northern hemisphere), the shadow moves in a circle and indicates the daytime. Its disadvantage is its inaccuracy, which results from the varying sunrise and sunset locations in winter and summer.

Another problem was that he did not work at night.

Over the years and the accumulation of astronomical knowledge, solar clocks have become very sophisticated, but the basic problems remain: to specify an exact hour, the solar clock must be very large – tens of meters – and it cannot be carried anyway. Also, the weak point of sun watches was… clouds :).

Hourglass is a facility for measuring a given time period. The watch consists of two small containers, one of which is fixed upside down over the other and between them a small hole.

The top container is filled with fine sand that descends at a constant rate to the container below it within a certain period of time.

For further measurement, the fixture must be turned over and repeated.

Candle Clocks are candles along a blackboard that would mark time. Their existence dates back to the sixth century AD.

Good practice of candle clocks could get a desired degree of precision – thin candles were used to measure minutes and thick ones to measure hours.

It is quite easy to device an alarm clock or timer from candle clocks. All you need is to wrap a cotton cord around the candle in the appropriate place and attach a small dumbbell. When the candle reaches the string the thread burned, and the dumbbell falls into a metal bowl making a rather loud ring.

A considerable advantage of the candle clocks over the sun watches is that they do not depend on daylight or cloudless sky to operate.

Their shortcomings include the need for a fairly large candle repository and calibration for all batches of candles, as the speed of combustion changed from one type of candle to the other.

And for all of you clock-history fricks, here are some alternative time measurement mechanisms:

Sun clock – The first sun clock was very simple. It was an upright stick set in the ground, its shadow falling on a wall or upright stone, on which are carved numbers representing the hours. Because the sun rises in the east and moves westward through the south (in the northern hemisphere), the shadow moves in a circle and indicates the daytime. Its disadvantage is its inaccuracy, which results from the varying sunrise and sunset locations in winter and summer.

Another problem was that he did not work at night.

Over the years and the accumulation of astronomical knowledge, solar clocks have become very sophisticated, but the basic problems remain: to specify an exact hour, the solar clock must be very large – tens of meters – and it cannot be carried anyway. Also, the weak point of sun watches was… clouds :).

Hourglass is a facility for measuring a given time period. The watch consists of two small containers, one of which is fixed upside down over the other and between them a small hole.

The top container is filled with fine sand that descends at a constant rate to the container below it within a certain period of time.

For further measurement, the fixture must be turned over and repeated.

Candle Clocks are candles along a blackboard that would mark time. Their existence dates back to the sixth century AD.

Good practice of candle clocks could get a desired degree of precision – thin candles were used to measure minutes and thick ones to measure hours.

It is quite easy to device an alarm clock or timer from candle clocks. All you need is to wrap a cotton cord around the candle in the appropriate place and attach a small dumbbell. When the candle reaches the string the thread burned, and the dumbbell falls into a metal bowl making a rather loud ring.

A considerable advantage of the candle clocks over the sun watches is that they do not depend on daylight or cloudless sky to operate.

Their shortcomings include the need for a fairly large candle repository and calibration for all batches of candles, as the speed of combustion changed from one type of candle to the other.