Publications

In Press
Schechner, Sara J. Sundials and Time Finding Instruments of the Adler Planetarium: Volume I. Chicago: Adler Planetarium, In Press.Abstract

The first of a two-volume catalogue that documents and interprets America's finest collection of sundials and related instruments. 

In Preparation
Schechner, Sara J. Sundials and Time Finding Instruments of the Adler Planetarium: Volume II . Chicago: Adler Planetarium, In Preparation.
Schechner, Sara J.Glass and Power: Sourcing Scientific Glass in North America, 1600-1850” (In Preparation).
Schechner, Sara J. “Telescopes in Colonial and Federal America, 1620-1820” (In Preparation).
2017
Schechner, Sara J.These Are Not Your Mother’s Sundials: Or, Time and Astronomy’s Authority.” In The Science of Time 2016: Time in Astronomy & Society, Past, Present and Future, edited by Pavol Gabor Catherine Hohenkerk Kenneth Seidelmann and Elisa Arias, Ludwig Combrinck. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 2017.
Schechner, Sara J.Boston Electric: Making Do with ‘Mail Order’ and Recycled Goods for Teaching and Research at Colonial Harvard.” In Oxford Handbook of History and Material Culture: World Perspectives, edited by Ivan Gaskell and Sarah Anne Carter. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.
2016
Schechner, Sara J., and David Sliski. “Preservation Recommendations for Historic Photographic Jackets.” Journal for the History of Astronomy 47, no. 1 (2016): Supplement. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Appendix III to “The Scientific and Historical Value of Annotations on Astronomical Photographic Plates”

Schechner, Sara J., and David Sliski. “Preservation Recommendations for Historic Photographic Jackets.” Journal for the History of Astronomy 47, no. 1 (2016): supplement. Publisher's Version
Schechner, Sara J., and David Sliski. “The Scientific and Historical Value of Annotations on Astronomical Photographic Plates.” arXiv (2016). Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Scientific and Historical Value of Annotations on Astronomical Photographic Plates

Authors: Sara J. Schechner, David H. Sliski
Comments: 46 pages, 9 figures, Published in the Journal for the History of Astronomy, February 2016

arXiv:1602.03475v2 [physics.hist-ph]
DOI: 10.1177/0021828615624094
License: http://arxiv.org/licenses/nonexclusive-distrib/1.0/
Subj-class: History and Philosophy of Physics (physics.hist-ph)

How Scientific Instruments Have Changed Hands, Scientific Instruments and Collections 5
Morrison-Low, A. D., Sara J. Schechner, and Paolo Brenni, ed. How Scientific Instruments Have Changed Hands, Scientific Instruments and Collections 5. Leiden: Brill, 2016.Abstract

This collection of essays discusses the marketing of scientific and medical instruments from the eighteenth century to the First World War. The evidence presented here is derived from sources as diverse as contemporary trade literature, through newspaper advertisements, to rarely-surviving inventories, and from the instruments themselves. The picture may not yet be complete, but it has been acknowledged that it is more complex than sketched out twenty-five or even fifty years ago. Here is a collection of case-studies from the United Kingdom, the Americas and Europe showing instruments moving from maker to market-place, and, to some extent, what happened next.

Schechner, Sara J.European Pocket Sundials for Colonial Use in American Territories.” In How Scientific Instruments Have Changed Hands, Scientific Instruments and Collections, 5:119-170. Leiden: Brill, 2016. schechner_07_how_instruments_have_changed_hands.pdf schechner_07_color_plates.pdf
Schechner, Sara J., and David Sliski. “The Scientific and Historical Value of Annotations on Astronomical Photographic Plates.” Journal for the History of Astronomy 47, no. 1 (2016): 3-29. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The application of photography to astronomy was a critical step in the development of astrophysics at the end of the nineteenth century. Using custom-built photographic telescopes and objective prisms, astronomers took images of the sky on glass plates during a 100-year period from many observing stations around the globe. After each plate was developed, astronomers and their assistants studied and annotated the plates as they made astrometric, photometric and spectroscopic measurements, counted galaxies, observed stellar variability, tracked meteors, and calculated the ephemerides of asteroids and comets. In this paper, the authors assess the importance of the plate annotations for future scientific, historical, and educational programs. Unfortunately, many of these interesting annotations are now being erased when grime is removed from the plates before they are digitized to make the photometric data available for time-domain astrophysics. To see what professional astronomers and historians think about this situation, the authors conducted a survey. This paper captures the lively discussion on the pros and cons of the removal of plate markings, how to best to document them if they must be cleaned off, and what to do with plates whose annotations are deemed too valuable to be erased. Three appendices to the paper offer professional guidance on the best practices for handling and cleaning the plates, photographing any annotations, and rehousing them.

Three supplementary appendices are available online here.

2015
Schechner, Sara J.The Art of Making Leyden Jars and Batteries according to Benjamin Franklin.” eRittenhouse 26 (2015). Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Leyden jar was arguably the most important instrument for electrical experiments in the second half of the 18th century, and Benjamin Franklin’s fame as a natural philosopher was based largely on his explanation of how it worked.   In two remarkable letters written in the 1750s to scholars in Boston, Franklin offers instruction on the making of Leyden jars and assembling them into batteries.  The letters also illustrate the challenges of getting and maintaining natural philosophical apparatus in colonial America, and a culture of recycling goods in order to make do.

PDF version
Schechner, Sara J.Tortoises Sail the Sea.” Wonders and Marvels, 2015, 31 July 2015. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Analysis of a Galapagos tortoise specimen marked "Ship Abigail," which belongs to Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology, with remarks on Herman Melville, Charles Darwin, and whaling.  Online at Wonders and Marvels.

tortoises_sail_the_sea.pdf
Schechner, Sara J.Instrumentation.” In A Companion to the History of American Science, edited by Georgina M. Montgomery and Mark A. Largent, 408-419. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2015. Wiley Blackwell instrumentation_schechner_companion_to_history_of_am_sci.pdf
Tangible Things: Making History through Objects
Ulrich, Laurel, Ivan Gaskell, Sara J. Schechner, Sarah Carter, and Samantha Gerbig van (photographer). Tangible Things: Making History through Objects. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. OUPAbstract

In a world obsessed with the virtual, tangible things are once again making history. Tangible Things invites readers to look closely at the things around them, ordinary things like the food on their plate and extraordinary things like the transit of planets across the sky. It argues that almost any material thing, when examined closely, can be a link between present and past.

The authors of this book pulled an astonishing array of materials out of storage--from a pencil manufactured by Henry David Thoreau to a bracelet made from iridescent beetles--in a wide range of Harvard University collections to mount an innovative exhibition alongside a new general education course. The exhibition challenged the rigid distinctions between history, anthropology, science, and the arts. It showed that object-centered inquiry inevitably leads to a questioning of categories within and beyond history.

Tangible Things is both an introduction to the range and scope of Harvard's remarkable collections and an invitation to reassess collections of all sorts, including those that reside in the bottom drawers or attics of people's houses. It interrogates the nineteenth-century categories that still divide art museums from science museums and historical collections from anthropological displays and that assume history is made only from written documents. Although it builds on a larger discussion among specialists, it makes its arguments through case studies, hoping to simultaneously entertain and inspire. The twenty case studies take us from the Galapagos Islands to India and from a third-century Egyptian papyrus fragment to a board game based on the twentieth-century comic strip "Dagwood and Blondie." A companion website catalogs the more than two hundred objects in the original exhibition and suggests ways in which the principles outlined in the book might change the way people understand the tangible things that surround them.

2014
Schechner, Sara J. “Webster Memories.” In Rod aand Madge Webster: A Legacy of Collections, Philanthropy, and Friendship, 62-67. Chicago: Adler Planetarium, 2014.
Schechner, Sara J.Essay Review: Astrolabes from Medieval Europe by David A. King.” Aestimatio 11 (2014): 354-363. Publisher's Version aestimatio_2014-42_schechner.pdf
Schechner, Sara J.Historical Instruments in the Mikulov Collections.” Journal for the History of Astronomy 45, no. 1 (2014): 134-135.Abstract

Review of Historické vědecké přístroje v mikulovských sbírkách:  Katalog vědeckých přístrojů z 16. až 19. století ve sbírkách Regionálního muzea v Mikulově [Historical Scientific Instruments in the Mikulov Collections: Catalogue of Scientific Instruments from the 16th to 19th Centuries in the Collection of the Regional Museum in Mikulov] by Zdeněk Horsky.

jha_book_review_mikulov_collections_vol.45_1_2014_pp.134-135.pdf
Schechner, Sara J. “How Telescopes Came to New England, 1620-1740.” In Scientific Instruments in the History of Science: Studies in Transfer, Use and Preservation, 69-78. Rio de Janeiro: Museu de Astronomia e Ciências Afins (M.A.S.T.), 2014. Publisher's Version

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