Jacopo de'Dondi

The creator of the world's first clock


Jacopo de’Dondi graduated from Padua University to become the municipal physician of Chioggia in 1313, but he later returned to Padua as a professor to lecture at the University's medical school. Like many medical scholars of the time, he was facinated by the sky and the stars, and by how time was calculated according to the movement of the sun.


In 1344, Prince Ubertino de Carrara commissioned Jacopo de’Dondi to design and erect a public clock in the Torre dei Signori of the Palazzo del Capitanio in Padua. The clock is widely accepted to have been the first to have a face - clocks prior to 1344 were just devices for ringing bells at regular intervals.


The clock contained a 24-hour dial, with the hour hand rotating at half the speed of that that we consider to be normal today.


Sadly, the clock was destroyed by fire between 1390 and 1399 so there is only a replacement clock, which was built in 1423, standing in its place today; it is said to be a faithful copy of the original.


Clearly, our watches are not replicas of de’Dondi’s magnificent invention but they are, however, a mark of respect to the man that was able to let the world visualise time. Here is a quote from Jacopo’s son, Giovanni, that we’d like to leave you with:


“...we desire nothing more from it
than the uniform
and equal motion of a wheel
which shall complete its course
in the space of a natural day,
and such a wheel is called the horary sphere.”