Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens was born today in 1656, he went on to invent the pendulum clock, discovered the Saturn moon Titan, and was a pioneer of probability theory. Now WE know em

Christiaan_Huygens

Christiaan Huygens was born April 14, 1629 in Hague, the Dutch capital of the province of South Holland.

His father was a diplomat and adviser to the Dutch Royal House of Orange.

Christiann grew up in a household that included family friends such as Galileo Galilei, Marin Mersenne, and René Descartes.

Descartes became impressed by his skills in geometry.

His father then sent the 16 year old Christiaan to study law and mathematics at the University of Leiden for two years before continuing his studies at the newly founded College of Orange in Breda.

Upon completion of his studies, Christiaan then followed in his fathers footsteps as a diplomat.

Then in 1650, the House of Orange lost its power and both he and his father lost their vital influence.

By 1654, Christiaan Huygens had returned to his father’s house in The Hague, to devote himself entirely to research.

His aim was to understand telescopes and began grinding his own lenses in 1655.

Then on March 25, 1655, Christiaan Huygens discovered Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.

Pendulum Clock

The pendulum clock was invented in 1656 by Christiaan Huygens, and patented the following year.

Drawing of the first pendulum clock, designed by Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens in 1657

Drawing of the first pendulum clock, designed by Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens in 1657

Christiaan was inspired by investigations of pendulums by Galileo Galilei beginning around 1602. Galileo had discovered the key property that makes pendulums useful timekeepers: isochronism, which means that the period of swing of a pendulum is approximately the same for different sized swings.

Galileo had the idea for a pendulum clock in 1637, which was partly constructed by his son in 1649, but neither lived to finish it.

The introduction of the pendulum, the first harmonic oscillator used in timekeeping, increased the accuracy of clocks enormously, from about 15 minutes per day to 15 seconds per day leading to their widespread use as the world’s most precise timekeeper until the 1930’s.

Probability Theory

In 1657, Christiaan wrote the first treatise on probability theory titled “On Reasoning in Games of Chance.”

Christiaan did not stop there however, and in 1662 had his telescope breakthrough with the Huygenian eyepiece. This eyepiece had two lenses.

In 1663, he was invited to join The Royal Society of London.

For the next 18 years, Christiaan published major studies of mechanics and optics, and also became a pioneer of games of chance.

Then after suffering a serious depressive illness, he retired to his home in The Hague and wrote his Astroscopia Compendiaria about his new tubeless aerial telescope.

His father died in 1687, and inherited Hofwijck, where he moved to the following year.

Hofwijck

Hofwijck

Then on June 12, 1689, Christiaan Huygens met Isaac Newton. They spoke about Iceland spar, and subsequently corresponded about resisted motion.

Christiaan Huygens died on 8 July 1695, and was buried in the Grote Kerk.

Now WE know em

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One response to “Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens was born today in 1656, he went on to invent the pendulum clock, discovered the Saturn moon Titan, and was a pioneer of probability theory. Now WE know em

  1. Pingback: Oldest Dutch telescope, archaeological discovery | Dear Kitty. Some blog·

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