At the age of twenty he entered the English College at Lisbon (1659), and after being ordained a priest he was sent on the English mission. He first resided with Lord Langdale in Yorkshire, and afterwards removed to Parkhall, in Lancashire, a seat belonging to Mr. Houghton, but his chief employment was attending the poor in the neighbourhood, "to whom he conformed himself both in dress and diet." He died in 1719 at the age of eighty.
Dodd, the church historian, who was personally acquainted with Barlow, observes that:
he was master of the Latin and Greek languages, and had a competent knowledge of the Hebrew before he went abroad, and "tis thought the age he lived in could not show a person better qualified by nature for the mathematical sciences.
Tho" he read not many books of that kind, the whole system of natural causes seeming to be lodged within him from his first use of reason. He has often told me that at his first perusing of Euclid, that author was as easy to him as a newspaper.
His name and fame are perpetuated for being the inventor of the pendulum watches. But according to the usual fate of most projectors, while others were great gainers by his ingenuity, Mr.
Barlow had never been considered on that occasion, had not Mr.
Tompion (accidentally made acquainted with the inventor"s name) made him a present of 200l.
Barlow invented the rack and snail striking mechanism for striking clocks about 1676. This was a great improvement over the previous mechanism used in striking clocks, the count wheel.
In addition, unlike the count wheel, it could easily be made to repeat the striking of the hour.
Therefore it was used to construct repeater clocks, which at the pull of a string would strike the number of hours. In this age before widespread artificial illumination, these were used to tell the time after dark.
This invention was afterwards applied to pocket watches. Barlow and London watchmaker Daniel Quare disputed the patent rights to the repeating watch.
In 1687, King James II decided the question by having each watchmaker submit a quarter repeater watch for the examination of the king and his council.
The king, upon trying each of them, gave preference to Quare"s, of which notice was given soon after in The London Gazette. The difference between these two inventions was that Barlow"s was made to repeat by pushing in two pieces on each side of the watch-box, one of which repeated the hour, the other the quarter hour. Quare"s was made to repeat by a pin that stuck out near the pendant.
Which being pressed repeated both the hour and quarter.