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The Marine Chronometer and the National Maritime Museum’s collection

Jonathan Betts, Curator Emeritus of the Royal Museums, Greenwich, delivered the fifth annual George Daniels Lecture on 29th November 2017.
by John Stevenson (Senior Communications Officer)

The fifth annual George Daniels Lecture was delivered on 29th November by Jonathan Betts, Curator Emeritus of the Royal Museums, Greenwich.

Held in the Oliver Thompson Lecture Theatre, Betts' lecture, 'A Pretty Employment for Ingenious Men: The story of the Marine Chronometer and the National Maritime Museum's collection', examined the intricate process of cataloguing the various marine chronometers which are kept in the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, forming one of the flagship collections in the National Maritime Museum.

Until 2015, Mr Betts was Senior Curator of Horology at the Museum. 

The basis of the lecture came from his new book, The Marine Chronometers at Greenwich (Oxford University Press).

Royal Academy of Engineering-George Daniels Professor of Scientific Instrumentation, Professor Ken Grattan said:

"The 2017 George Daniels Lecture was yet another highly successful event in this now well-established series.  An excellent lecture, showing the detailed research work the speaker had undertaken and revealing his deep knowledge of the subject, it was well received by a large audience who enjoyed questioning him at the end, giving him a further opportunity to discuss a subject on which he clearly is a master."

Mr Betts is a Fellow of the British Horological Institute, Vice Chairman of the Antiquarian Horological Society, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, a Fellow of the International Institute for Conservation and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

In 1998 he was made a Huntington Fellow of the Mariners Museum, Virginia, for his cataloguing of the marine chronometer collection there. In 2014 he was Master of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers and is Curatorial Adviser to the Clockmakers Company Museum. He is also the Adviser to the National Trust on their clock and watch collections.

Over the last 40 years Jonathan Betts has given regular lectures on Horology and Conservation, organizing and speaking at the NMM conference Horological Conservation and Restoration in 1988. He has been a regular lecturer at West Dean College, at museum seminars and to horological and heritage groups.

Mr Betts has made regular radio and TV appearances speaking on horological matters and is a frequent correspondent in the horological press.

He was Harrison and Gould adviser to the drama documentary film Longitude (Granada 2000), and provided the idea and some of the script for the highly successful last episode of the TV sit-com (UK), ‘Only Fools and Horses’, Time on their Hands, in 1996.

Co-axial escapement

George Daniels CBE, DSc, FBHI, FSA (19th August 1926-21st October 2011) created the co-axial escapement, one of the most significant developments in watchmaking for the last 250 years and which has since been licensed to Omega. He studied horology at City’s predecessor, the Northampton Institute.

After his death, the George Daniels Educational Trust administered the substantial funds he bequeathed to provide scholarships for City’s students and to benefit research in measurement and instrumentation at the University.

Currently, George Daniels' substantial financial endowment supports the George Daniels Chair in Scientific Instrumentation; the George Daniels Lecturer in Scientific Instrumentation; Undergraduate Scholars studying for degrees in Biomedical, Mechanical, Civil, Aeronautical Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, and PhD studentships.

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