Dr John Taylor stands next to his creation

Dr John Taylor, the designer of the Corpus Christi grasshopper clock (the Chronophage), has been awarded an OBE for invention and horology – or, the science of time keeping. The Chronophage was both designed and funded by Dr Taylor, and is now a major University landmark and tourist attraction. It was officially unveiled by Stephen Hawking in 2008.

The clock cost Dr Taylor £1 million and took five years with over 200 professionals to be made, and involves 6 patented features.  It features a grasshopper, called the Chronophage, that supposedly eats time. Taylor intended the clock to pay homage to the famous 18th century clock maker John Harrison.

Dr Taylor graduated from Corpus Christi with a BA in 1959, and is now a well-known inventor with almost 200 inventions and 396 patents in his name. He is also well known for his philanthropic activities – the University of Cambridge awarded him a silver medal in 2009 for his financial contributions. He has donated over £2.5 million to the University for several causes, including scholarship schemes, the new Corpus Christi library, and, of course, the Chronophage.

Taylor was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2001 by University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (now part of University of Manchester), and he is currently an Honorary Fellow of Corpus Christi College.
Dr Taylor made most of his fortune by developing thermostats for kettles, while chairman of Strix Ltd, an offshoot company of his father’s Otter Controls. His father had pioneered bi-metallic thermostats, initially used for temperature control in World War II pilot suits.  For his work on kettle thermostats, John Taylor has received 4 Queen’s Awards- one for invention and three for export. Strix Ltd sold its billionth kettle thermostat in 2009. His other inventions include the automatic windshield wiper.

When questioned about his inventions, Taylor responded: ‘“Ideas are easy; it is turning them into a practical reality that is hard.” On hearing of his award he said ‘I am very pleased and very proud to have been recognised in this way.”

Sir Arnold Wolfendale FRS, the 14th Astronomer Royal, made the following comment regarding John Taylor: ‘Despite having been in University life for many years and having met many brilliant individuals, John Taylor is unique in being not only a brilliant inventor but having great skills in so many other areas too.  He is also a charming unaffected person.  His many contributions to providing work for very many people, his stimulus to British Horology and his philanthropy make him a worthy recipient of an OBE.  I am proud to be numbered amongst his many friends.  I congratulate him wholeheartedly.’

Dr John Taylor, who is now 77, is currently on a scientific expedition to Antarctica.