Card Sundial drawn by Elizabeth Hayes

Contributed by Manaeus

Card Sundial drawn by Elizabeth Hayes

In a barely contested eBay auction, this addition to my collection arrived with a story: In May 1816, Elizabeth B. Hayes, having borrowed a book from a personal or a subscription library in Philadelphia, sat down with a set of drawing instruments and followed the instructions for drawing a sundial on a card. The following day, she copied out the directions for setting and using the sundial. That a woman would engage in a geometry exercise in the first quarter of the 19th century is slightly unusual - even for Philadelphia. This however is a complex exercise and the neatness of her work demonstrates a high proficiency with drawing instruments. I know nothing more of Elizabeth, but whether this was done for personal satisfaction or in some role as an educator, we may recognise a distinct intellect. This kind of sundial was invented in the 16th century and is called a Capuchin, after a supposed similarity in shape to the hoods worn by monks of that Order. Sundials similar to this were quite popular in Catholic Europe, but elsewhere it remained more of a mathematical curiosity. Sundials like these can also be used backwards to find astronomical information, such as the time of sunset.

Comments are closed for this object

Most of the content on A History of the World is created by the contributors, who are the museums and members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC or the British Museum. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site’s House Rules please Flag This Object.

About this object

Click a button to explore other objects in the timeline


In or near Philadelphia


Wednesday, 8 May 1816


View more objects from people in London.

Find out more

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.