Clocks Spring Forward

Don’t forget to set your clocks forward one hour before going to bed tonight. According to the Commerce Department (Hi Gina) the change to daylight saving time will occur at 2am, Sunday morning. This is usually where we write about efforts to abolish the biannual time changes, but the arguments are the same as last year, so let’s discuss this sundial instead. It can be found on the Main Green at Brown University. From the history of Faunce House:

The sun-dial on the south wall of Faunce House was a gift from Delta Phi in 1938 in observance of the centennial of the Brown chapter. The sun-dial was designed by the office of architect Albert Harkness ’09. The drawing for it was made by Donald S. Reed of that office, who was a member of the local astronomical group called “Skyscrapers.” The astronomical calculations were made by Professor Charles H. Smiley.

Unknown if Professor Smiley’s family is connected in any way to our new mayor, but his efforts left a mark well beyond the college community. From The Skyscrapers:

Originally hired as an assistant professor of mathematics, this young man was soon asked to assist in teaching astronomy. In 1931-1932 he took advantage of the astronomical facility at Ladd Observatory . . . to host a series of open houses. Encouraged by the response, our young professor, Charles Hugh Smiley, invited a number of people who shared an interest in astronomy to Ladd Observatory to discuss the organization of a group called the Rhode Island Amateur Astronomers.

On May 5, 1932, the first meeting of this new society occurred at Ladd Observatory in Providence, where they elected officers, defined the purpose of the organization, set the dues at $2 per year, set the monthly schedule of meetings and formed both a membership and a program committee. It was also at this momentous occasion that the name “The Skyscrapers,” was suggested, and later adding Amateur Astronomical Society of Rhode Island to it. And according to those present, “It was considered one of the most appropriate names ever to have been chosen by any astronomical club in the country.”

The Skyscrapers currently have four working telescopes at their Seagrave Observatory in North Scituate.

To see the sundial, walk in through the arch on Waterman Street (at Brown Street) and turn left. Look up.

From the entry at the North American Sundial Society: A scroll above the dial bears the symbols of the major planets, from left to right: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.

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