Sundials - World's Oldest Clocks

North American Sundial Society

Features

Fred Sawyer, in cooperation with the North American Sundial Society, established a continuing yearly award, the Sawyer Dialing Prize to be presented by NASS to an individual for accomplishments in or contributions to dialing or the dialing community. Each year a panel makes recommendations of those people who have significantly contributed to the art of dialing by their dialing art, their ability to teach and educate, their superb craftsmanship, their care in dial restoration, or in their gnomonic skills in design and computer programming tools for others.

 At each North American Sundial Society conference since 2000, the winner is announced and awarded with a certificate of recognition, a small trophy sundial, and a cash award of $200.  Many of the awardees have chosen to use their cash award to help further the art of dialing by donating it to others, increasing the scope of sundialing around the world.  Funding for this award has come from the Sawyer family with a 50% matching donation by NASS.

The certificate and trophy dial presented to each recipient are inscribed with the Greek letters ZHΘI.    The ancient Greeks used the letters of their alphabet as numerals.   When the hours of a dial were to be numbered from dawn to sunset, the numerals used were A, B, Γ, Δ, E, S, Z, H, Θ, I, IA, and IB for the successive hour intervals. By chance, the sequence from the seventh through the tenth hour (i.e. noon through mid-afternoon) spells a Greek word ZHΘI, the second person singular imperative meaning: Live!  The Greeks carried this thought further, and an epigram on the certificate, attributed to Lucian - a second century Greek satirist - exhorts:

Greek_epigram_to_LIVE

NASS_TonyMoss_DialNASS_SpectraDial

The first three Sawyer Dialing prize recipients received a Universal Equatorial Dials designed and crafted by Tony Moss of Lindisfarne Sundials, UK. [Tony is now retired and the last of the Lindisfarne Sundials has been made.]  The dial can be set for any latitude and is a special edition containing the NASS logo and the imperative ZHΘI.

Since 2003, Sawyer Dialing prize recipients have received Spectra Sundials crafted by Jim Tallman.  Hundreds of Spectra Sundials can be located around the world at The World of Artisan Sundials - Spectra Sundial Locations Worldwide .  The unique design of each Sawyer Dial is given as an html link at the bottom of each award description.

This Sundials for Starters appeared in The Compendium in December 2013

Robert L. Kellogg, Ph.D.

Fig. 1 Analemma over the Acropolis photographed during the year by Ayiomamitis

As the shadows grow longer and we head for the winter solstice my mind turns again to the analemma, a concept invented by Grandjean de Fouchy in 1740 to describe the apparent irregular motion of the sun. Strictly speaking, this is the difference between the right ascension of the true sun minus the right ascension of the mean sun. While this is mathematically important to astronomers, it is esthetically pleasing that the apparent sun will describe a “figure 8” through annual motion in the sky. This “figure 8” or analemma is visible only when the sun’s position is compared to a “mean time” using a precise clock. The analemma (or the sun’s apparent East-West motion called the Equation of Time) allows us to answer the question “Will the time shown on my sundial be fast or slow compared with my watch?”

Read more: Analemma and the Equation of Time

He may be wheelchair bound, but that doesn't diminish Tom Laidlaw's enthusiasim for sundials.  In front of his house on Carolina Lane is the Vancouver Heights neighborhood landmark - a sundial garden.  And what has he planted?

There is a bright circular equatorial sundial that shows the time from 4am to 8pm (and even an offset for daylight saving time).  On the grass is an analemmatic sundial sundial marking time from 6am to 6pm for anyone who wants to stand to the plywood walkway.  On a table near the house are a series of globe, equatorial and horizontal sundials as well as other sundial types that he will gladly explain.  For example, Tom has turned a skate board into a polar dial by adding a "T" gnomon in the middle.  And then there is a model of the Jefferson dial where you swing the gnomon around a globe to cast only a thin line shadow

Katie Gillespie, of the Columbian, reports "The 80-year-old retired electrician has always been a 'do-it-yourself kind of guy,' he said. For a while, it was skateboards he fancied, and bookshelves, and a Benjamin Franklin chair that transforms from a chair into a stepladder. He’s self-taught, he said, researching new projects online, then diving in.... 'It’s fun to watch him talk to people about it,' said Debra Brouhard, Laidlaw’s daughter and neighbor."

His latest obsession is sundials.  As a member of the North American Sundial Society, Tom now designs a multitude of sundials.  Visitors see his yard dotted with all types of sundials.  They come in all sizes: big and small.  His analemmatic sundial on the lawn always draws attention. Nearby, a plumb bob dangles from a beam. allowing Tom to tell time solar noon. when the shadow draws a line on the lawn pointing due north.

Gillespie found that, "Laidlaw’s passion for sundials began in 2009, when his grandson, Doug Brouhard, stuck a stick in the ground while they were camping. Doug Brouhard was about 12 at the time, and the dial didn’t quite work, Laidlaw said. It was the right idea, though, and a new hobby was born. 'I still have the stick that started it all,' Doug Brouhard said."

Read more of Katie Gillespie's article and see more photos of Tom Laidlaw and his sundials at http://www.columbian.com/news/2017/aug/30/sundial-garden-shines-in-vancouver-heights/

One of the highlights of the NASS conference in St. Louis was the 3D printed Schmoyer Sunquest civil time dial rendered by Bob Kellogg and featured in the NASS Compendium.  Following a video on his 3D printing process, NASS gave away 3 dials he had donated.  That left a roomfujl of people wondering how they could get one!

Since that time, Bob has made a number of tweaks to the design - including provisions for a dial in the Southern hemisphere and adding a knob to move the gnomon precisely for the weeks around the solstice where the gnomon Equation of Time has been stretched

Schmoyer Model Kit and Finished Dial

The Schmoyer Sunquest is a 3D printed 1/3 - scale plastic version (5 1/2" diam.) of Schmoyer's original  design.  It comes as a kit that is easily assembled and adjusted for your location with a Phillips-head screwdriver and about 5 minutes of your time.  Full instructions are included.

So now it's time to make the dials gernerally available.  We are happy to announce that you can now purchase the Schmoyer Sunquest from NASS (all profits will benefit NASS goals of education and fostering dialing projects and the art of gnomonics as a 501(3)c not for profit organization).  Bob has volunteered to provide the society with a supply to meet the demand.  But note that he can only print about 1 dial per day! -  so get your order in.

Price: $35 US dollars each plus s/h

Shipping/Handling (s/h) in: US  $7 for 1-2 dials
  Canada/Mexico $25 for 1-2 dials
  Elsewhere $34 for 1-2 dials

Please make your U.S. dollar denominated check (drawn on a U.S. bank) payable to NASS.  Provide your mailing address information and send payment to:

Fred Sawyer, 27 Ninas Way, Manchester CT 06040 USA

Alternatively, you can use PayPal to send payment to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. (Note: Payments from outside the U.S. can be made in U.S. dolars via PayPal.  PayPal will do the currency conversion for you.)

All requests will be filled in the order in which payment is received.  If you want a dial for the Southern hemisphere or the original "classic" Schmoyer Sunquest dial without adjustment knob, you must let us know at the time you order the dial. 

The North American Sundial Society held their annual sundial conference in Pittsburgh, a four day affair for gnomonists to convene and share their enthusiasm for all things sundials.  This conference was special as the NASS celebrated the society's 25th anniversary.  Starting in 1993 with only a handful of dialing enthusiasts, the society has grown to over 250 members extending from North America to all parts of the globe.  For this conference NASS members convened from around the world representing countries of Canada, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Australia.  Scheduled to attend but intervened by last minute issues preventing their attendance were dialists from Mexico and Italy.  All came with one objective - to share their enthusiasm for sundials.

On Thursday evening Aug 16th the dialists gathered at the Garden Hilton in downtown Pittsburgh to participate in drawings for assorted door prizes including sundials and books on dialing.  On Friday all boarded a charter bus to view the sundials of Pittsburgh, taking a tour that included a large steel equatorial designed and built by Anthony Vitale, a multi-faced dial at Old Economy Village dating to 1825, and a dial commemorating the battle at Bushy Run in 1793 that was found at the site of the Fort Pitt Block House during its 1894 restoration by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution who still own and preserve the structure and the sundial. The tour included the dial at Frick Fine Arts Museum (near the geenhouse), the Riverfron Park Sewickley analemmatic (human) sundial, and the large octagonal horizontal sundial at Homewood Cemetery.

On Saturday and Sunday attendees listed to presentations on ring dials (with a diverson into the history of solving cubic equations), helical sundials (and 3D printing), viking sunstones (with a description of the birefracting material calcite), lunar sundials (Sciathericum Seleniacum), van Schooten and Dialing Scales (published in 1657), Time for Rita's (a vertical declining dial designed for an ice cream store in Elizabethtown, PA), and zenith days below the Tropic of Capricorn (and a year-long photograph of the analemma over the El Cerrito pyramid in Querétaro, Mexico),and much, much more.  On Saturday evening the Sawyer Dialing Prize was awarded this year to Gianpiero Casalegno from Italy for his achievements in harnessing modern ditital technology to the benefit of tradional dialists around the world.  The prize includes an elegant Spectra Sundial by Artisan Industrials (Jim Tallman) and a cash award.  Gian has chosen to given the cash award as a donation to the Bellingham Mural Project lead by Sasch Stephens. The dial will be dedicated on the coming equinox, Sept. 22.

NASS members enjoyed this year's conference and are now planning for next year's convening, tentatively to be held in Denver, Colorado.


This Sundials for Starters appeared in The Compendium in March 2007
(Updated January 2017)

By Robert L. Kellogg, Ph. D.

Benjamin Bannekar

Benjamin Banneker, 1731-1806 , is one of the nation's best-known African American inventors.  He was born in Maryland and in 1791 played an important part in surveying the newly designed Federal Territory, now called the District of Columbia.  In his youth, Banneker was inspired to build his own clock after an acquaintance gave him a watch. He took the watch apart to find out how it worked and made drawings of each component, and based on his drawings, he carved larger versions of the components out of wood and constructed a clock that kept accurate time for more than 50 years.   As mathematician, he designed an Almanac that was a rival of Benjamin Franklin’s famous publication.

As astronomer, clockmaker, and mathematician, he was expected to know how to design sundials, although none exist bearing his mark.  In an age before pocket calculators, how would Banneker design a sundial?  The graphical method is available in modern texts such as Waugh’s 1973 classic “Sundials: Theory and Construction”.  Want to lay out a horizontal sundial without sines, cosines, and tangents?  Then this “Sundials for Starters” is for you.

Attachments:
Download this file (Bannaker- Dial Construction.pdf)Bannaker- Dial Construction.pdf[ ]2019 kB

Read more: Bannekar - Drawing a Dial

Subcategories

  • Sundials for Starters
    Article Count:
    6
  • Conferences
    Article Count:
    24
  • Sawyer Dialing Prize
    Fred Sawyer, in cooperation with the North American Sundial Society, established a continuing yearly award, the Sawyer Dialing Prize to be presented by NASS to an individual for accomplishments in or contributions to dialing and the dialing community.
    Article Count:
    19
  • Terwilliger Sundials
    In these pages is the famous tub sundial created by Robert Terwilliger using his laser trigon to lay out hour lines on a very irregular surface to create a working sundial.
    Article Count:
    1
  • Biographies

    Who are today's sundial artisans?  Here are several bioghraphies of several artisans that show the unique combination of talents in art, engineering, and mathematics.

    Article Count:
    6
  • Sunquest Sundial

    This section is dedicated to Richard Schmoyer who invented the Sunquest sundial.  Please visit http://sunquestsundial.org/ as well.

    Article Count:
    3