Out of the Past
Clockmaker and Doctor
Jakob (Magni) Uhrmachen was born in Freiburg in
1335. His father, Wilhelm Magni, was well known
as a Physician and Man of Letters. Jakob had several
siblings, one of whom, Wilhelm II, was crushed
to death by a runaway horse and carriage. Jakob
blamed himself for the death and devoted his life
to control the world around him. Despite his fathers
wishes, Jakob abandoned a study of medicine in
the hopes of studying what order there was to the universe.
To that end he became apprenticed to Friedrich
Von Strasbourg Uhrmachen, and in 1354 the two together built
Dreikönigsuhr (“three-king clock”) a magnificent
astronomical clock which featured automata and
an astrolabe dial. Jakob saw how the clock
beautifully brought the town together, creating
order from chaos. When his master died in 1356,
Jakob took the business and the name of Uhrmachen.
That same year he returned to his birthplace and set
up shop there. However, the growth of his business was
slow and he soon returned to his father’s practice,
that of medicine, to further hone his skills as a
man of the world. He met his future wife and by 1359
they had two sons. However, this bliss was not
permanent; Jakob’s sense of adventure and longing for
order would take him around the continent seeking
churches that needed clocks and seeking tomes and
papers on the order of the universe.
“If there is a God, he is like a watchmaker, devoted to
precision, order, and beauty. Let us then be like God in
Jakob’s travels have taken him all the way to the Holy
Land and into the Far East, where he has heard rumors
of breakthroughs in both the science of clocks and
the philosophy of the universe.
In 1369 Jakob found his skills as a doctor were more
sought after than those as a clock maker, and he rose
to become the main physician of a Turko-Mongol General
Named Timur. Travelling with Timur brought Jakob into contact with many beautiful things,
but by 1370 the two parted ways. Later that year Jakob encountered a clock of such precision, it’s very existence was a miracle. He devotes his life to this clock, and took it home to Freiburg where his family waited.