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Mormons in Technology pt. 1 Twitter Facebook Print E-mail
Written by Cassie McDaniel   
Thursday, 03 September 2009

The Roadometer: William Clayton

Technology has grown at an exponential rate since the restoration of the gospel. Every day we are blessed by the contributions of those who are working to advance technology. Many of us think of the computer on our desk when we think of technology. But technology is more than that; it is defined as the practical application of science to commerce or industry.

Latter-day Saints have been active participants in science and technology. Learning about those who have worked so hard to get technology to where it is today can inspire us to keep innovating.  Many of the innovations that we enjoy were either invented or influenced by Latter-day Saints. Mormons in Technology is a short series of articles that will be posted once a month and will discuss some of the technical innovations made by Latter-day Saints since the restoration of the gospel. Use the RSS feed, e-mail subscription, or LDSTech Twitter updates to stay up to date on LDSTech posts.

To kick off the Mormons in Technology series, we begin with the roadometer. William Clayton, known for writing the lyrics of the hymn Come, Come, Ye Saints to the melody of a traditional English song, is credited as one of the inventors of the roadometer. The roadometer was a predecessor of the modern odometer.

During the trek west, Clayton kept detailed records of the surrounding landscape, plant life, and activities of the Camp of Israel. He was assigned to record the distance traveled each day by the wagon party. To accomplish this, he tied a red flag to the wheel of a wagon and counted each revolution. He determined that 360 revolutions of a wagon wheel equaled one mile traveled. One can only imagine how tedious this job would become, and so with the help of Orson Pratt, he designed the roadometer. The roadometer was built by Appleton Milo Harmon and consisted of a set of wooden cogs attached to the hub of a wagon wheel. The cogs caused a wheel to revolve once every ten miles, thus accurately recording each mile and quarter mile travelled. The mechanism was protected from the elements by an encasement. The roadometer was first used on May 12, 1847.

Check here each month to learn more about Mormons who have contributed to technology.


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