Race against time – Tour de France leader Vincenzo Nibali leading the race out of Cambridge past the iconic 24 carat gold ‘Corpus Chronophage Clock’ invented by Dr John C Taylor OBE and situated outside the Taylor Library of Corpus Christi College on King’s Parade, Cambridge. pic: Henry Iddon Tel: 07976 375013, commissioned by Dr John C Taylor OBE.
Dr John C Taylor OBE FREng is one of Britain’s greatest inventors. He was born in Buxton, Derbyshire, attended school on the Isle of Man and then later graduated in Natural Sciences from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. He returned to live on the Isle of Man 40 years ago after running the highly successful Otter Controls business in Buxton.
Many of the hundreds of patents that Dr Taylor holds are for domestic appliances, thermostats and electrical equipment. His single most famous invention is the thermostat controls for the cordless kettle, patented and used throughout the world. It has been calculated that over two billion of Dr Taylor-designed bi-metal blades – used in thermostats to switch off kettles – have been produced since their invention in the 1970s.
The company founded by Dr Taylor, Strix, holds four Queen’s Awards, three for Export and one for Innovation, granted for his 360-degrees cordless kettle connector. His personal interests include mountaineering, sailing, and flying, first flying solo in 1953.
Dr Taylor was awarded Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 2011 New Year’s honours list for his services to business and horology.
Throughout much of his life, Dr Taylor has been immersed in the study and collecting of early clocks. He set up Fromanteel Ltd, a horological development company, named after the Fromanteel family of clockmakers of 17th-century London. He has organised many major exhibitions on 17th and 18th century horology, with a special interest in the works of Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695), inventor of the domestic pendulum clock, and John Harrison (1693-1776), who invented the marine chronometer. Dr Taylor organised the John Harrison exhibition in the Jerusalem Chamber in Westminster Abbey, the Royal Society, and Buckingham Palace.
His interest extends to the design and building of innovative clocks, including the Corpus Christi Chronophage, which was donated to and on permanent display at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and also the design of an intelligent pendulum.
He has made numerous contributions to educational establishments, including the support of the Centre for Manufacturing at UMIST, which opened in 2001. He has also been an active benefactor to his former Cambridge College, contributing £2.5 million in 2008 towards the construction of a new Taylor Library for students. He has also funded many scholarships and bursaries.
He has an Honorary Doctorate from UMIST and is a Visiting Professor of Innovation in recognition of his numerous patents. He was also elected Honorary Fellow of Corpus Christi College.
Dr John C Taylor OBE said, “My idea with the Chronophage was to turn the clock inside out, and then make the tiny little escapement and the grasshopper into the biggest gear on the clock. I wanted a bit of impact so I made it one and half metres in diameter, with the grasshopper a metre long on the top and its legs were the pallets of the escapement which John Harrison designed. This means you can actually see the grasshopper escapement working.
“Time is not on your side, it’s rather scary, so I changed the cuddly image of a Walt Disney grasshopper into a rather frightening time eater. I thought it would be fun if in a minute he slowly opened his jaws wider and wider, and on the 59th second of every minute he went crunch, got that minute, chewed it up and swallowed it so you could never get it back.”