Sundials: What Time Is It?
The origin of sundials is unknown but may date back to as much as 5,000 years. The history of science finds in them evidence of very early understanding of some of the fundamentals of astronomy. Modern science finds them useful in describing the solar system and orbital dynamics. The mathematics of sundials may be incorporated in the teaching of plane and spherical trigonometry. Architects use them in the design of buildings and formal gardens. Artists find them useful in paintings, engravings and stonework. Summer science projects can include the drawing of an analemmatic sundial on the ground. Sundials were of interest to many scientists and scholars such as Sir Isaac Newton and Thomas Jefferson.
The discussion will focus on the ancient history of sundials from the Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans to their resurgence during the renaissance and on to the present day. The presentation will also include a non-mathematical explanation of their workings and basic orbital dynamics.
Illustrations of modern sundials will be presented and everyone will be able to make a working sundial for Nashville.
A Question & Answer session will follow the presentation, as will a telescope viewing if weather permits.
— Dr. J. Robert Schweikert is a physician who is a specialist in Internal Medicine, with a subspecialty in Endocrinology. Degrees include a BS in Biological Sciences from Purdue University and an MD from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Dr. Schweikert’s lifelong interest in Astronomy led to his work as a volunteer and docent at the Vanderbilt University Dyer Observatory. He has been involved with the Science Camps for fifth through eighth grade students at the observatory for the past 11 years. His most recent studies have focused on the History and Scientific Studies of Time and the Development of Sundials.