Who Invented Sundials?

The Egyptians and the Babylonians were the first to make use of the sun to measure time. This was around 3500 BC. Their sundials were big pillars and they were called obelisks. The word ‘obelisks’ comes from the Greek word, which roughly translates as a ‘pillar’.

The first portable sundial came two thousand years later in 1500 BC in Egypt. Again it was the Egyptians who made the first astronomical device which could be used to keep track of the time. When the Greeks learned about them, they were quick to adopt them and it is said that a Greek astronomer, Theodosius of Bithynia, was the first person to have developed a universal sundial around 100 BC, although it is not yet verified.

SundialsThen came the turn of the Arabs and they improved the sundials. Ibn al-Shataar wrote extensively about the sundials. He divided a day into equal hours. Learned men in Europe translated books from Arabic into Latin during the renaissance and they worked from where the Arabs had left off. An Italian mathematician, Giuseppe Biacani, wrote a book named ‘Constructio Instrumenti ad Horologia Solaria’ which dealt with the topic of how to build a perfect sundial.

Soon, other ways were devised to keep track of time and sundials became obsolete as objects of practical importance. Nowadays, sundials are more of objects of curiosity.

Category: Inventions

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