AL-Sa’at al-Ma’iyya al-’Arabiyya / Arabic Water – Clocks.

Hill, Donald R.

Book ID: 29262


8vo. 221 pp., Arabic text, figures, 8 colour plates hors text, translated into Arabic by Khaled Maghout & Ahmad Hassani, publisher’s original wrappers, biblio in English, Sources & Studies In The History of Arabic-Islamic Science Series, No: 10, University of Aleppo, 2004.


In the medieval Islamic world (632-1280), the use of water clocks has its roots from Archimedes during the rise of Alexandria in Egypt and continues on through Byzantium. The water clocks by the Arabic engineer Al-Jazari, however, are credited for going “well beyond anything” that had preceded them. In al-Jazari’s 1206 treatise, he describes one of his water clocks, the elephant clock. The clock recorded the passage of temporal hours, which meant that the rate of flow had to be changed daily to match the uneven length of days throughout the year. To accomplish this, the clock had two tanks, the top tank was connected to the time indicating mechanisms and the bottom was connected to the flow control regulator. Basically, at daybreak, the tap was opened and water flowed from the top tank to the bottom tank via a float regulator that maintained a constant pressure in the receiving tank.

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