Long Now Talks

David Rooney

A History of Civilization in Twelve Clocks

How has time been imagined, politicized, and weaponized over the centuries—and how it might bring peace?

Horologist David Rooney tells the hidden story of timekeeping and how it continues to shape our modern world. From medieval water clocks to monumental sundials, and from coastal time signals to satellites in earth's orbit, Rooney takes us on a global journey that showcases the ingenuity and craftsmanship humans have used to track and measure time. His in-depth research illustrates the very real effects clocks and timekeeping have on everything from navigation, to capitalism, to politics, to our very identity.

An expert storyteller, Rooney brings pivotal moments from the past vividly to life and shows us how a history of clocks is a history of civilization.

David Rooney, is a historian of technology and expert on clocks and timekeeping practices. As a curator at the Science Museum, London, Rooney was the lead caretaker of Long Now's Prototype 1 of The 10,000 Year Clock which is on display there in the Making of the Modern World exhibit.

Rooney is also author of several books including his most recent, About Time: A History of Civilization in Twelve Clocks.

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Long Now Talks are made possible by David and Abby Rumsey, Kim Polese, Shel Kaphan, Garrett Gruener, Scorpio Rising Fund, Peter Baumann, Brian Eno, Greg Stikeleather, Ping Fu, Peter Schwartz, Lawrence Wilkinson, Stripe, Ken and Maddy Dychtwald, Future Ventures, Ken and Jackie Broad, AtoB, WHH Foundation, and the The Long Now Membership. We would also like to recognize George Cowan (01920 - 02012) for being the first to sponsor this series.

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The Long Now Foundation is a nonprofit established in 01996 to foster long-term thinking. Our work encourages imagination at the timescale of civilization — the next and last 10,000 years — a timespan we call the long now.

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