Astronomical

2021
IAU Commission C3 Newsletter
Schechner, Sara J., ed.IAU Commission C3 Newsletter,” 2021, vol. 2021, no. 1, 42pp.Abstract

Newsletter of the International Astronomical Union Commission C3 (History of Astronomy), edited and published semiannually at the Summer and Winter Solstices by Sara Schechner, Secretary of IAU Commission C3.

iau-c3-newsletter-2021-1.pdf
Berger, Susanna, and Sara J. Schechner. “Observations on Niccolò Tornioli’s The Astronomers.” Annals of Science 78, no. 4 (2021): 1-45. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In the summer of 1645, the Oratorian Virgilio Spada (1596–1662) acquired a painting of a debate on astronomy by the Sienese artist Niccolò Tornioli (1598?–1651) and displayed it in the Palazzo Spada, the Roman residence of his older brother, Cardinal Bernardino Spada (1594–1661). Our discussion of The Astronomers questions some of the traditional identifications of its characters, although we cannot claim to have solved these figures’ identities and several remain a mystery. We do present new iconographic interpretations of particular scientific instruments, diagrams, and natural phenomena in the canvas. These novel readings occasionally remain conjectural in part because Tornioli represents these entities in a way that makes it clear that he did not fully comprehend them. The errors and obscurities in Tornioli’s painting lead us to two conclusions. First, that the erudite Virgilio Spada was unlikely to have been involved in the definition of the painting’s iconographies, as he would have objected to Tornioli’s crass mistakes and obscure imagery. Second, that these errors and indistinct details should be taken at face value, insofar as they accentuate the difficulties of astronomical observation. Beyond highlighting these challenges, we argue that the painting also visualizes techniques for countering them. Specifically, the canvas would have focused early modern observers’ attention on the edifying powers of civil conversations and communal observations with scientific instruments as well as images—including diagrams, celestial maps, and paintings.

observations_on_niccol_tornioli_s_the_astronomers.pdf
2020
Sundials
Schechner, Sara J., Meredith Stepien, and Pedro Raposo. “Sundials.” Adler Astronomy Live. Adler Planetarium, Chicago, 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract

cite as: Sara J. Schechner, "Sundials," interview with Meredith Stepien and Pedro Raposo, Adler Astronomy Live, streamed live on October 8, 2020, YouTube video, 55:50, https://youtu.be/Xfo9ifTixIg.

Hello stargazers! Welcome to Adler Astronomy Live: Sundials! ☀️

The Adler Planetarium has the best and most comprehensive collection of sundials in North America. Sundials played a central role in shaping people’s sense of time, and show how the latter has been influenced by their culture, politics, religion, labor, society, and geography throughout the ages. ⏰ Join us for a conversation with Dr. Sara J. Schechner, author of Time of Our Lives: Sundials of the Adler Planetarium, on some of the most spectacular sundials in the Adler’s collections and their stories.

Watch the YouTube video here.

IAU Commission C3 Newsletter
Schechner, Sara J., ed.IAU Commission C3 Newsletter,” 2020, vol. 2020, no. 2, 57pp.Abstract
Newsletter of the International Astronomical Union Commission C3 (History of Astronomy), edited and published semiannually at the Summer and Winter Solstices by Sara Schechner, Secretary of IAU Commission C3. 
iau-c3-newsletter-2020-2.pdf
IAU Commission C3 Newsletter
Schechner, Sara J., ed.IAU Commission C3 Newsletter,” 2020, vol. 2020, no. 1, 57pp.Abstract
Newsletter of the International Astronomical Union Commission C3 (History of Astronomy), edited and published semiannually at the Summer and Winter Solstices by Sara Schechner, Secretary of IAU Commission C3. 
iau-c3-newsletter-2020-1.pdf
2019
Schechner, Sara J."Telling Time in Tokugawa Japan." Review of Making Time: Astronomical Measurement in Tokugawa Japan by Yulia Frumer.Physics Today 72, no. 6 (2019): 57-58. Publisher's Version phyics_today_72.6_2019_review_of_frumer.pdf
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”.

 

2018
Schechner, Sara J.’Girl Hours’ at the Harvard College Observatory, review of The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars, by Dava Sobel.” Journal for the History of Astronomy 49, no. 1 (2018): 117-119. schechner_girl_hours_at_harvard_observatory_jha_2018.pdf
Schechner, Sara J.The Future of Astronomy's Archived Observations –An Open Discussion.” Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society 50, no. 7 (2018).
Schechner, Sara J., and John Davis. “The Puzzle of a ‘Reproduction’ Astrolabe in the Style of Jean Fusoris.” Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society, no. 139 (2018): 8-16. harvard_astrolabe_sis_bull_dec_2018-hi_res.pdf
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