American science

2020
Great Collections: Harvard's Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments and Its Founder, David P. Wheatland
Schechner, Sara J.Great Collections: Harvard's Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments and Its Founder, David P. Wheatland.” Journal of Antiques and Collectibles September (2020): 34-35. Publisher's Web PostingAbstract

This is a story of the impact a collector can have on creating one of the world’s most celebrated of specialized museums. The museum is Harvard University’s Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments and the man responsible is David P. Wheatland of Topsfield, Massachusetts.

The publisher's print version is attached as a PDF.  The web version of the essay is here.

Schechner_jantiquescoll_sept_2020_great_collections.pdf
Historic Challenges for Harvard Women of Science with Sara Schechner, David P. Wheatland Curator of the Harvard Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments
Schechner, Sara J., and Jennifer Berglund. “Historic Challenges for Harvard Women of Science with Sara Schechner, David P. Wheatland Curator of the Harvard Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments.” HMSC Connects! Podcast. Harvard Museums of Science & Culture, 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Cite as: Sara J. Schechner, “Historic Challenges for Harvard Women of Science,”  interview with Jennifer Berglund, HMSC Connects! Podcast, Harvard Museums of Science & Culture, podcast audio, 26:58, August 12, 2020, https://www.podbean.com/ew/pb-pstaj-e6c60d.

Welcome to HMSC Connects! where Jennifer Berglund goes behind the scenes of four Harvard museums to explore the connections between us, our big, beautiful world, and even what lies beyond.

For our second episode celebrating women's suffrage this month, Jennifer is speaking with Sara Schechner, curator of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments.  Sara is a historian of science, specializing in material culture and the history of astronomy. She's also an expert in the history of women in science.

Listen to podcast here.

Schechner, Sara J.Boston Electric: Science by ‘Mail Order’ and Bricolage at Colonial Harvard.” In The Oxford Handbook of History and Material Culture, edited by Ivan Gaskell and Sarah Anne Carter, 170-199. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020.Abstract

With a focus on the experimental apparatus employed and the sociable exchange of ideas, this chapter examines how electricity was taught to Harvard students and members of polite society in the Boston area over the course of the century. Without local instrument makers or suppliers of glass and brass parts, colonial American experimenters had to import equipment and repair parts from London. When time and money discouraged imports, they became bricoleurs, incorporating recycled, traded, and ready-to-hand materials into their apparatus. Benjamin Franklin was an important intermediary in getting scientific instruments from London to Boston and Cambridge, and he shared instructional know-how so that locals could assemble their own Leyden jars and other electrical instruments.

2019
Schechner, Sara J.Introduction.” In From Celestial to Terrestrial Timekeeping: Clock Making in the Bond Family, by Donald Saff, xii-xiii. London: Antiquarian Horological Society, 2019.
Time of Our Lives: Sundials of the Adler Planetarium.
Schechner, Sara J. Time of Our Lives: Sundials of the Adler Planetarium.. Chicago: Adler Planetarium, 2019. Publisher's VersionAbstract

 

Time of Our Lives

Sundials of the Adler Planetarium

Sara J. Schechner

 

Published by the Adler Planetarium, with the support of the North American Sundial Society

 

The Adler Planetarium of Chicago has the best and most comprehensive collection of sundials and time-finding instruments in North America. Now many of these objects can be yours to explore. This volume encompasses a dazzling array of sundials, 268 in all, that date from the 15th to 20th centuries.

What makes this catalogue special is that it is written to engage non-specialists approaching sundials for the first time. Although the organizational logic is astronomical and mathematical, the primary Interpretive essays set the sundials into cultural and social context.

The catalogue divides sundials into classes according to the element of the Sun’s apparent motion that they track (e.g. hour-angle, altitude, azimuth, or a combination) and the orientation of the surfaces on which the hour lines are mathematically drawn. Within each chapter, the instruments are organized chronologically and by workshop, thereby giving readers insight into that type’s development over time and differences among makers. Technical object descriptions are supplemented by tables of divisions, gazetteers, saints’ days, weather forecasts, and in the case of polyhedral dials, the dial types, orientations, and hour systems drawn on every face. The tables offer a snapshot of the precision to which the maker aimed and the sundial’s complexity. Color photographs of each sundial show its overall appearance and details.

Chapter introductions go beyond mathematical descriptions of how each type works. Drawing upon research findings presented here for the first time, the essays offer insights into early production techniques, fads and fashions, social hierarchy among users, the impact of church and civil authorities, and the history of the sundial classes.

Throughout the ages, people’s sense of time has been influenced by their culture, politics, religion, labor, society, and geography. This catalogue offers concrete evidence, for every sundial in it embodies the time-related needs and values of its maker and users.

The catalogue includes a taxonomy of compass needles, glossary, bibliography, and index. It is hardcover, 488 pages, 9.75” x 11”.

 

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, 49-73. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 2017. schechner_978-3-319-59909-0_8.pdf
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)

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

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