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Provost Robert Barchi is a busy man, but he still managed to take some time out yesterday to talk about, well, time -- more specifically, the pocket watch.

As part of a series sponsored by the Penn Humanities Forum, Barchi gave a lecture at 3619 Locust Walk entitled "The Aesthetics and Engineering of Early Watch Design," a subject in which he holds a deep personal interest. He spoke before a crowd of about 50 people.

"I really want to talk about mechanical devices that keep time... particularly ones that you can keep in your pocket," Barchi said. "I'd like to give you an idea for the intrinsic beauty of these objects."

Barchi himself boasts a large collection of pocket watches.

"I have accumulated 50 or so watches," the provost remarked.

Barchi's talk focused on the history and structure of various watches, and his animated presentation eventually needed to be halted by event organizer Eugene Narmour after 90 minutes of lecture and discussion.

"He's clearly a wonderful teacher," Narmour said. "He knows his subject, and he was effective."

The Humanities series explores the cultural aspect of time. The last two speakers were forced to cancel due to illness, and prior to Wednesday's event, Narmour joked, "It's good that we have a medical person resuming the series."

For a professor of neuroscience and neurology, Barchi possesses an extensive knowledge of the pocket watch, which he conveyed to the audience with the aid of Microsoft Powerpoint and a laser pointer.

Barchi focused on the history and development of the pocket watch through French and British advancements. He noted how the invention of the quartz and electronic watches marked the end of the industry.

"I've tried to take you on a tour through watchmaking up to 1935, 1940, the death of the mechanical watch," Barchi said.

Audience members unfamiliar with watch lingo may have been lost in Barchi's complex discussion of watch structure.

But Barchi appeared to enjoy speaking on the subject. At the end of his lecture, however, he realized he may have bored some audience members along the way.

"I'll take questions from those of you who are still awake," he joked.

There were definitely some watch enthusiasts in attendance, as the discussion session lasted for quite some time.

One interested audience member, Gerard Semola, a science researcher who is not affiliated with the University, got into a discussion with the provost regarding Galileo's contributions to the original concept of time-keeping.

"History of science is my work, and this is a big part of that," Semola said. "I know a little bit [about pocket watches], but not as much as [the provost] does."

Engineering freshman Joey Fehrman was the only student in attendance.

Fehrman admitted that he only attended to meet the provost, but that he was intrigued by the lecture.

"I was impressed by his amount of knowledge," Fehrman said. "I actually might go look up information on watches."

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