AL-JAZARI'S ELEPHANT CLOCK

The Muslim engineer Al-Jazari (1136 – 1206 AD) created a number of impressive mechanical devices, recorded in his 'Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices'.


One of his most ingenious designs was his elephant water clock. The timing mechanism of the clock was based on a water-filled basin hidden inside the elephant. A deep bowl floated in the water, but with a small hole in the center. The bowl took half an hour to fill through this hole. In the process of sinking, the bowl pulls a string attached to a see-saw mechanism in the tower on top of the elephant. This released a ball that dropped into the mouth of a serpent, causing the serpent to tip forward, which pulled the sunken bowl out of the water via strings, allowing it to empty. At the same time, a system of strings caused a figure in the tower to raise his hand and the elephant driver to hit a drum every half an hour. The cycle then repeated itself for as long as balls remained in the upper reservoir to power the emptying of the bowl.


Upon finishing the elephant clock, he wrote: "The elephant represents the Indian and African cultures, the two dragons represents Chinese culture, the phoenix represents Persian culture, the water work represents Greek culture, and the turban represents Islamic culture". This statement examplifies the open intellectual attitude of the Islamic Golden Age.


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