George Graham (clockmaker)

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George Graham

George Graham (7 July 1673 – 20 November 1751) was an English clockmaker, inventor, and geophysicist, and a Fellow of the Royal Society.

He was born in Kirklinton, Cumberland.[1] A Friend (Quaker) like his mentor Thomas Tompion, Graham left Cumberland in 1688 for London to work with Tompion. He later married Tompion's niece, Elizabeth Tompion.


Plaque in Fleet Street, London, commemorating Thomas Tompion and George Graham

Graham was partner to the influential English clockmaker Thomas Tompion during the last few years of Tompion's life. Graham is credited with inventing several design improvements to the pendulum clock, inventing the mercury pendulum and also the orrery. However his greatest innovation was the invention of the Graham dead-beat escapement around 1715. He was made Master of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers in 1722.[2]

Between 1730 and 1738, Graham had as an apprentice Thomas Mudge who went on to be an eminent watchmaker in his own right, and invented the lever escapement, an important development for pocket watches.[3]

He was widely acquainted with practical astronomy, invented many valuable astronomical instruments, and improved others. Graham made for Edmond Halley the great mural quadrant at Greenwich Observatory, and also the fine transit instrument and the zenith sector used by James Bradley in his discoveries. He supplied the French Academy with the apparatus used for the measurement of a degree of the meridian, and constructed the most complete planetarium known at that time, in which the motions of the celestial bodies were demonstrated with great accuracy. This was made in cabinet form, at the desire of Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery.


His major contribution to geophysics was the discovery of the diurnal variation of the terrestrial magnetic field in 1722/23.[4][5] He was also one of the first to notice that auroras are related to magnetic field variations.[6] The compass needles he produced as an instrument-maker were used by many of contemporary magneticians. Around 1730, George loaned approximately £200 to John Harrison so that he could start work on his marine timekeeper known later as H1. George was commonly known in the trade as 'Honest George Graham'.

Examples of his work[edit]


He died at his home in Fleet Street, London and was buried in the same tomb as his friend and mentor Thomas Tompion in Westminster Abbey.[7]


  1. ^ "DServe Archive Persons Show". Retrieved 2012-01-15. 
  2. ^ Watch-Wiki: George Graham
  3. ^ Harold Bagust, “The Greater Genius?”, 2006, Ian Allan Publishing, ISBN 0-7110-3175-4 (page 15)
  4. ^ Graham, George (1724): An Account of Observations Made of the Variation of the Horizontal Needle at London, in the Latter Part of the Year 1722, and Beginning of 1723. Phil. Trans. 33, 96-107, doi:10.1098/rstl.1724.0020
  5. ^ Graham, George (1724): Observations of the Dipping Needle, Made at London, in the Beginning of the Year 1723. Phil. Trans. 33, 332-339, doi:10.1098/rstl.1724.0062
  6. ^ Graham, George (1748): Some Observations, Made during the Last Three Years, of the Quantity of the Variation of the Magnetic Horizontal Needle to the Westward. Phil. Trans. 45, 279-280, doi:10.1098/rstl.1748.0030
  7. ^ Britten, Frederick J. (1894). Former Clock and Watchmakers and their Work. London: E. & F.N. Spon.  p.89-97