You know how much I love travelling, just re-read all my travel articles, especially the latest one about Palm Cove in Australia.
We also experienced Time Travel together in one of my previous articles, and that’s what we’re going to do again today.
Several countries have changed the clocks and I thought that travelling back in the past to understand time and space was welcome.
So I'm taking you to the Royal Observatory of Greenwich near London!
GMT, does that mean anything to you? Greenwich Mean Time, and yes, the mean solar time at the Greenwich Meridian has long been used as a world standard for time, based on Earth's rotation.
And if you remember my article Pantheon in Paris, there was a huge clock on the floor that operated with the movement of the Earth.
But you wonder why Greenwich in England?
This is quite arbitrary, because while latitude is measured by the equator and separates north from south, longitude, on the other hand, has no benchmark to separate west and east.
In the 19th century, many countries used their own meridian based on their national observatories.
However, in 1884, at a conference in Washington DC (USA), Greenwich was recognised as the Prime Meridian (O° of longitude) as an international standard, because the majority of shipping companies and the American rail system were already using the British system.
In addition, they took the opportunity to adopt a world time based on this same meridian.
Thus, the Greenwich Meridian, which crosses the Observatory, was the world's benchmark measurement of time and space. However, France didn’t adopt it until 1911, preferring to use the Paris meridian of course.
However, since 1972, GMT has been replaced by UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), a more precise calculation method. That’s the reason why you sometimes see Paris UTC + 1 or Los Angeles UTC-8.
The Greenwich meridian or prime meridian crosses England, France, Spain, Algeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Ghana and the Antarctic.
You’ll observe in the photos, the names of the cities, their longitude in degrees and a letter (W for west and E for east), and of course Greenwich is on both sides of the line.
Here I am, I stand above the Meridian of Time and Space, between West and East!
In the observatory you can admire the telescope invented and used by George Biddell Airy (7th Royal Astronomer), to calculate the prime meridian.
You’ll notice the system to open the roof ...
But how did it all start?
Located in east London not far from the Thames Barrier, which I described to you in my article Technical Feat, the Royal Observatory was established in 1675 by Charles II of England.
At that time, the sailors and their precious cargo encountered a major problem, they knew how to calculate their north-south position (latitude) but had no way of knowing their longitude (west-east).
Many were lost at sea and perished.
John Flamsteed was the first Astronomer Royal, responsible for improving star maps to aid mariners.
Royal astronomers over time have thus created more precise tools and methods using various instruments, some invented at their request, several are on display at the observatory including a telescope from the Victorian era (1893), which is still in use today!
Moreover, the red ball on the roof of the house (installed in 1833), goes up shortly before 1 p.m. (in summer, noon in winter) and at the exact time falls, this allowed the boats which were on the Thames to reset their instruments before going to sea.
I’m speaking in the present tense because the ball is still used today.
Another major discovery was the invention of the marine timekeeper for boats. It was essential to consider the rolling, the temperature changes and the salt which rusted the pieces. After 45 years of work and research, and 4 versions of the clock, John Harrison invented the H4 in 1760 and revolutionised watchmaking.
The measurement of time was an essential discovery, the observatory has a large collection of sundials, clocks and watches.
It’s interesting to see this evolution until the wristwatches that we know today, these were initially created for ladies, men preferring the pocket watch, however during the WW1, they lost them in the trenches and decided to strap it to their wrists… Today the wristwatch is adopted by everyone.
The bronze planetarium was installed in 2007 on the property which makes this place a place full of enrichment and discovery.
The Observatory and the Greenwich Park where the building is, offer incredible panoramic views over Greenwich and the City of London.
The splendid building that extends below was a royal residence including the Royal Navy Hospital, now it’s the National Maritime Museum.
A very pleasant and relaxing environment, inspiring to daydream and new inventions ...
I admit, this article was a lot of reading, but as we are confined again, I figured this would pass the time for you.
Don't hesitate to re-read the articles about my Solo Wedding in Santorini if you’re looking for a bit of hope and courage.
You can also review my articles on London, and then, at the end of the article, a video on the best attractions in the city!
Have a fantastic week everyone!
Love & Science,