Over thirteen billion years ago, the Universe was formed with the Big Bang. Several billion years later, the Sun, without which there can be no life on Earth, was formed from a cloud of gas and dust. Homo took his first steps a mere 200,000 years ago. Our ancestors’ constant search for means of subsistence took them from Africa and across the planet. They slowly developed an awareness of time, first the present then notions of past and future as the basis for life in groups of individuals. Homo sapiens, at first a hunter-gatherer, evolved from predator to producer. With this new production economy came trade and the exchange of goods, but also of knowledge.
A pivotal moment in human history occurred circa 2400 BCE when the Mesopotamians imagined a unit of measure which we still find in our base 60 (sexagesimal) system for counting minutes. Clocks that used the sun, water or fire measured the intervals of time which astronomers needed for their calculations. Soon the first gear-driven mechanisms appeared, a prelude to mechanical timekeeping which, of all human inventions, has probably had the greatest influence on how we think. With it came a new concept of time as a linear succession of discrete, calibrated, universal intervals. Farming communities became industrialised. “Modern” time measurement was born.