It’s About Time!

The man behind Corpus’ grasshopper clock has been awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Years Honours List.

chronophage clock Corpus Christi Corpus Clock grasshopper john taylor obe stephen hawking time

Dr John Taylor, inventor, designer and builder of the famous Corpus Clock, has been awarded an OBE for invention and horology (the science of time keeping).

The unusual clock, which has neither hands nor numbers, took seven years to make and cost Taylor £1 million. It was officially unveiled by Stephen Hawking in 2008, exactly 14 minutes and 55 seconds behind schedule.

A team of over 200 professionals worked around the clock to create the Chronophage, which features a grasshopper ‘eating’ time.

The Chronophage’s face features 60 slits, each six degrees apart, which light up to show the time. The seconds are counted by the steps of the grasshopper crawling around the edge of the disc. This movement triggers blue flashing lights to dart across the face of the clock, running in concentric circles to mark passing seconds, before pausing at the correct hour and minute.

At the time of the clock’s unveiling, Taylor commented: “Conventional clocks with hands are boring. I wanted to make timekeeping interesting.

“I also wanted to depict that time is a destroyer – once a minute is gone you can’t get it back. That’s why my grasshopper is not a Disney character. He is a ferocious beast that, over the seconds, has his tongue lolling out, his jaws opening then, on the 59th second, he gulps down time.”

Taylor, who graduated from Corpus in 1959 and is best known for his extensive research into electric kettles, has clocked up numerous prizes over the years, including four Queen’s Awards: one for invention and three for export. He currently holds the position of Honorary Fellow of Corpus.

Of his OBE, Taylor commented: “I am very pleased and very proud to have been recognised in this way.”

Taylor is just one of around half a dozen Cambridge Dons featured on the Queen’s New Years Honours List; others include Prof Mike Gregory who has been knighted, Prof Caroline Humphrey who has been made a dame, Prof Barry Kemp and Prof Ron Laskey who both received CBEs, Prof Sheila Bird and Prof Christopher Lowe who both received OBEs.

Time is ticking, and despite being 77 years old, Taylor is currently on a scientific expedition to Antarctica. But, will any new inventions emerge after this trip? Only time will tell…