Sundials - World's Oldest Clocks

North American Sundial Society

Ellipsoidal Gnomon SundialThe 2015 NASS Sundial Conference was held in Victoria, B.C.  Roger Bailey organized the conference and provided a sundial tour in Victoria, stopping at the BC Legislature Rose Garden dial, the St. Ann's Academy dial, Christ Church Cathedral vertical dial, the BC Government House totem sundial, and more, including a visit out to the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory to see the 1.8 meter telescope.

Steve Luecking discussed spherical and elliptical gnomons where tangent points are dropped to a circle circumscribing the ellipse and hour lines are then drawn as tangents from the points on the circle.  Steve used this technique to design a sundial using an elliptical gnomon with symbolic native art for Victoria. (Illustration at right)

Len Berggren described the design and building of a sundial that can show both solar and mean time, done with a $1000 grant from NASS.  Presentations included John Schilke discussing the Heliotrope and Heliograph.  Barry Duell outlined the history of a sundial at Willamette University donated by the Class of 1916.  The dial was dedicated to Prof. Matthews and engraved with his motto of "Sagacity, Audacity, Holiness, Chairty."

Prof. Woody Sullivan described 3 new dials.  The first two, an Oculus table and a Solar Hour Benches are at the San Francisco Exploratorium.  The third dial at the Very Large Array Radio Telescope in New Mexico is the world's first and only sundial made from one of the original radio telescopes.  It was constructed in memory of Prof. Ron Bracewell of Stanford Univ. a pioneer in radio astronomy.

Jackie Jones, Doug Bateman, Sasch Stephens, Fred Sawyer, and Mark Montgomery presented a wide range of topics from reflecting dials, elliptical dials and moon dials, to ancient Egyptian shadow clocks.  Bob Kellogg, unable to attend, sent along a video on a new digital gnomon sundial, while Frank King and Steve Luecking discussed optical geometries and illusions. (Read more in the attached dowloadable PDF)

This year's Sawyer Dialing Prize was awarded to Ing. Gianni Ferrari "for his long career educating the dialing community about the nearly forgotten heritage of ancient Islamic gnomonics and the wide variety of modern analytically developed sundial." (Read more about the Sawyer Dialing Prize)

Download this file (2015 NASS Conference Victoria.pdf)2015 NASS Conference - Victoria[Victoria Conference]1043 kB
Victoria, Inner Harbour
Dial at St. Ann Academy

The 21st NASS Conference will be in beautiful Victoria, B.C., Canada's “Jewel of the Pacific”. The sundial conference will be held June 18-21 2015, but you need to begin planning NOW, with full details published as soon as available. Please note:

(1) The conference will occur 2 months earlier than usual. So plan early for the summer date of June 18-21 event.

(2) Getting to Victoria situated on Vancouver Island may take some special planning. Most Victoria flights go through either Seattle WA or Vancouver BC, with the final short hop often being in a turboprop plane. There are a few nonstop jet flights from more distant cities such as Toronto ON, Calgary AB, and San Francisco CA. The following website may help you to route your flight:

(3) Shuttles from Victoria International Airport to downtown Victoria and our hotel, Harbour Towers, run frequently and cost approx. $22CN per person; see Transportation from the airport is also offered by Yellow Cab of Victoria:

If you make it to Seattle or Vancouver but prefer not to fly the rest of the way, a perfectly good scenic alternative is to take a ferry!

Read more: Plan for 2015 NASS Conference

Founding Fathers - Washington Dial at Mt. Vernon, VA

In August, 2014, the North American Sundial Society had a terrific conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, discussing sundial topics from the sundials of Our Founding Fathers where Fred Sawyer talked about the sundials and stories of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. 

Greek Dial from Ai Khanum

Another highlight was Jack Aubert's talk on the mysteries of an ancient Greek sundial found at Ai Khanum in the northern of Afghanistan and computing the hour lines.  Who built this dial more than 2000 years ago and what kind of mathematics did they use?

Peggy Gunnerson described the evolution of a modern sundial parallelpipeds sculpture, creating an artistic and unusal east-west sundial.  And Stephen Lueking presented a series of modern sundial designs for DePaul University.  These were just some of the presentations.  Subscribe to the digital edition of The Compendium from NASS and receive them all.  The annual Sawyer Dialing Prize went to Robert Kellogg for NASS outreach and the invention of a digital sundial.  Read more about the presentations and the tour of Indianapolis by downloading the attachment below.

Peggy Gunnerson Parallelpiped Dial
Stephen Luecking - Dial Design for DePaul University

Hosting 46 people, the conference was coordinated by George and Betsy Wilson and Mark an Phyllis Montgomery.  During the Friday Sundial tour NASS was welcomed by Eagle Elementary School, the senior high ability class and their teachers.  All gathered in the school's courtyard to show a large horizontal sundial, dedicated as a memorial to a former teacher, Linda Eads.

Download this file (2014_Conference_Indianapolis_IN.pdf)2014 Conference Indianapolis IN[ ]1138 kB
[CHSI - Harvard Collection]

Appropriate to NASS’ visit, Harvard had just recently completed a new major exhibit entitled “Time and Time Again” offering conference members a unique view on the changes in time keeping and the social impact of timekeeping technology.  On Friday afternoon, NASS members followed the Time Trails through the Harvard campus, locating historical sundials “in the wild” and timepieces in the Semitic, Peabody, and Natural History Museums.

The day was finished by two presentations “Trading in Time: European Pocket Sundials Designed for Colonial Use in American Territories by Sara Schechner and “Portable Sundials in Austrian Museums” by Ilse Fabian.

During Saturday a plethora of sundial talks were presented by NASS members, including “Counting the Sunny Hours” by Roger Bailey to a new “Wandering Gnomon Sundial Designn” by Fred Sawyer.  Bob Kellogg presented the making of an animation illustrating the Ibn al-Shatir sundial proposed for Observatory Park in Virginia for the Analemma Society.  One of the most color presentations was Art Paque’s update on Solargraphy, illustrating the technique of forming daily images of the sun a photographic paper that at the last is digitally scanned and preserved.

Download this file (2013_Conference_BostonCambridge_MA.pdf)2013 Conference BostonCambridge_MA[2013 NASS Annual Conference]822 kB

Read more: 2013 Conference - Boston/Cambridge

nass_news_2012_aug_nass_1The North American Sundial Society held its 2012 conference in Asheville NC, August 16-19.  Alice Io Oglesby and Hugh Munro, local hosts and sundial enthusiasts, took NASS members on a sundial tour through Asheville and the rolling hills of western North Carolina to see the vertical dials at Sunny Point Café and the analemmatic dial of the “kitchen garden” at the Biltmore Estate.  In Burnsville, NASS members saw the Quilt Block Sundial, one of over 200 colourful quilt block paintings along the North Carolina Quilt Block Trail. NASS was welcomed by the Mayor of Burnsville and had the Quilt Block sundial explained by Bob Hampton, astronomer designer and Martin Weaver artist. The Quilt Block Sundial in Burnsville was a most impressive example of teamwork and community support. Travelling further, Brian Leonard showed the armillary sundial he fabricated and installed in Marshall, NC.

The NASS conference included exciting talks on a colourful “Parallel Time East West Sundial” presented by new NASS member Peggy Gunnerson and shadow alignments at Toshogu Shrine by Barry Duell of the Tokyo International University.  Frank King talked about a most unusual circular analemmatic dial he designed for the Metropolitana of Naples (an Italian job).  Dr. King was also this year’s recipient of the Sawyer Dialing Prize.  Roger Bailey discussed dials of Mallorca and the “Box of Sapphires”, a compendium designed by Ibn al-Shatir in the 14th century. Fred Sawyer gave a most interesting talk on “Projected Refraction Sundials with Ambigram”, and at the NASS dinner on Saturday, he distributed a special gift to NASS participants: a location specific projected refraction sundial with the ambigram showing “CARPE” on the dial and “DIEM” in the projected shadow.  Other speakers with interesting presentations included Alice Io Oglesby, Bill Gottesman, Dudley Warner and Ken Clark.  Next year’s conference is being planned for Boston.




Photos shown: (Top) NASS conference participants underneath Bob Hampton's Quilt Block Dial; (Bottom Left) NASS members examine Alice Oglesby and Hugh Munro's vertical dial at Sunny Point Cafe; and (Bottom Right) Bob Hampton's Equatorial Dial made from a bent yardstick.

Read more: 2012 Conference - Asheville