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.
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”.
Time: We find it, keep it, measure it, obey it, rely on it, waste it, save it, chop it and try to stop it. We organize our lives around it, and yet, do we really know what time is? Drawing upon collections in Harvard’s scientific, historical archaeological, anthropological, and natural history museums and libraries, the book explores the answers given to that question in different ages by different world cultures and disciplines. Themes include time finding from nature and time keeping by human artifice. Readers of this book will explore cultural beliefs about the creation and end of time, the flow of time, and personal time as marked by rites of passage. They will take time out, and examine the power of keeping time together in music, dance, work, and faith. They will explore time’s representation in history and objects of personal memory, its personification in art, and its expression in biological evolution and the geological transformations of our planet. Featured objects include portable sundials and precision clocks, calendars from different cultures and epochs, time charts shaped like animals, Mesopotamian, Native American, and African ritual objects, fossils, metamorphosing creatures, and Julia Child’s stopwatch.
"The Material Culture of Astronomy in Daily Life: Sundials, Science, and Social Change," Journal for the History of Astronomy 32 (2001): 189-222. Translated into Polish by Darek Oczki, and posted with color illustrations in three parts on the Polish sundial website, http://gnomonika.pl at these addresses:
Schechner, Sara J., Jean-Francois Gauvin, and others. “Waywiser.” Online database of the Harvard Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, 2007. Link to Waywiser Abstract
Waywiser, is the online database of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, Harvard University. It was first developed by Jean-François Gauvin and Sara J. Schechner in 2007--2008, and has since been updated in format by Juan Andres Leon and other museum staff. As curator of the Collection, Schechner is the contributor of thousands of object entries and biographies, particularly in the areas of astronomy, microscopy, optics, time finding, horology, surveying, navigation, psychology, and radio. Work on the database is ongoing. The database is named after an ancient instrument for measuring distance, also called a hodometer.