Sundials - World's Oldest Clocks

North American Sundial Society


Sundial 853
State/Province:  Tennessee Country:  USA
Dial Type:  Equatorial Condition:  Excellent
Latitude:   36° 8.8022' N Longitude:   86° 48.2000' W
  • Vanderbilt University. The sundial is located near Rand Hall marks the spot where Barnard Observatory once stood on campus.
  • The equatorial dial made of aluminum operates on a unique principle. The equatorial time ring is allowed to rotate. Fixed to its co-rotating noon hour meridian ring is a plate with the analemma, extending +/- 23.5 deg from the equator. At top of the equatorial ring is a small hole allowing sunlight to make a spot on the analemma plate. The whole assembly is rotated until the sunlight spot falls on the analemma (with monthly marks to avoid ambiguity). One tells time using 5-minute time marks on the top of the equatorial ring read by one of two indicators either as central standard or daylight savings time.

    From Vanderbilt Engineering: "The Barnard observatory had been named after one of the university's most famous alumni, Edward Emerson Barnard who discovered Jupiter's fifth moon and became the first astronomer to photograph the Milky Way [and discovered the fastest moving star in our sky]. The observatory was razed in 1952 to make room for the construction of Rand Hall. John C. Adamson, BE’56, and James H. Patton III, BE’55, used bricks and materials from Barnard Observatory to construct the sundial under the direction of Professor of Mechanical Engineering Dillard Jacobs, BE’32. 'The idea for the sundial was his,' Adamson says. 'Jim and I did the design drawings and he completed the project after we graduated. Dillard Jacobs was a loyal Vanderbilt supporter and a nurturing professor. I had great admiration for him.' The base of the sundial is made from bricks of the old observatory.

General Information:
  • Owner: Vanderbilt University
  • Designer: Jim Patton III and John Adamson
  • Builder: Dillard Jacobs
  • Construction Date: 1958
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Last Revised: 2017-02-16 20:06