Grimthorpe (of Grimthorpe), Edmund Beckett, Baron

Grimthorpe (of Grimthorpe), Edmund Beckett, Baron
b. 12 May 1816 Newark, Nottinghamshire, England
d. 29 April 1905 St Albans, Hertfordshire, England
English lawyer and amateur horologist who was the first successfully to apply the gravity escapement to public clocks.
Born Edmund Beckett Denison, he was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied mathematics, graduating in 1838. He was called to the Bar in 1841 and became a Queen's Counsel in 1854. He built up a large and lucrative practice which gave him the independence to pursue his many interests outside law. His interest in horology may have been stimulated by a friend and fellow lawyer, J.M. Bloxham, who interestingly had invented a gravity escapement with an affinity to the escapement eventually used by Denison. Denison studied horology with his usual thoroughness and by 1850 he had published his Rudimentary Treatise on Clock and Watchmaking. It was natural, therefore, that he should have been invited to be a referee when a disagreement arose over the design of the clock for the new Houses of Parliament. Typically, he interpreted his brief very liberally and designed the clock himself. The most distinctive feature of the clock, in its final form, was the incorporation of a gravity escapement. A gravity escapement was particularly desirable in a public clock as it enabled the pendulum to receive a constant impulse (and thus swing with a constant amplitude), despite the variable forces that might be exerted by the wind on the exposed hands. The excellent performance of the prestigious clock at Westminster made Denison's form of gravity escapement de rigueur for large mechanical public clocks produced in Britain and in many other countries. In 1874 he inherited his father's baronetcy, dropping the Denison name, but later adopted the name Grimthorpe when he was created a Baron in 1886.
Principal Honours and Distinctions
Peerage 1886. President, British Horological Institute 1868–1905.
His highly idiosyncratic A Rudimentary Treatise on Clocks and Watchmaking first published in 1850, went through eight editions, with slight changes of title, and became the most influential work in English on the subject of public clocks.
Further Reading
Vaudrey Mercer, 1977, The Life and Letters of Edward John Dent, London, pp. 650–1 (provides biographical information relating to horology; also contains a reliable account of Denison's involvement with the clock at Westminster).
A.L.Rawlings, 1948, The Science of Clocks and Watcher, repub. 1974, pp. 98–102 (provides a technical assessment of Denison's escapement).

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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