By BEN GRAFTON
On May 27, Dr. Jonathan Bryan, Professor of Geology at Northwest Florida State College (NWFSC), who has been a significant participant in the college’s sundial project and who serves as presenter for programs provided to local communities on this subject, made time in his schedule for an interview about the project.
Bryan explained that when the Robert E. Greene Jr. Science Building was in the early stages of its development and construction on the Niceville campus, there was a consensus among the NWFSC family that the new structure should be complemented by a decorative monument outside, near the building, and with a theme both artistic and scientific. Eventually the idea that a horizontal sundial could fill this need developed and in the summer of 2008, a Sundial Committee, composed of NWFSC science faculty, art faculty, other college staff, and one local community member, was formed to pursue this project..
After much research on the history and science of sundials, which may be the oldest scientific instruments, a conceptual design of a large, interactive, analemmatic sundial was drawn up. In everyday words, this sundial uses the fact that the sun travels a known course (the analemma) relative to the earth and a vertical device, called a gnomon, positioned along a line on the dial that points to the north pole, will cast a shadow that can be used to tell time. In this case, the gnomon is a person, thus the sundial is interactive.
Once the conceptual design was adopted, with generous support by Dotty Blacker of Valparaiso, and contributions from the NWFSC Foundation, the committee was able to conduct a national search for an artist/sculptor to construct the dial. The result of this search was the selection of Elizabeth Indianos of Tarpon Springs, Fla., who has extensive expertise with sculptures with astronomical themes.
The dial was constructed in Gainsville, Fla. and then transported in eight large pieces by flatbed truck to NWFSC’s Niceville campus and installed near the northeast corner of the Science Building on “Saturn’s Day” in June 2010.
The sundial may be visited by members of the public. Group and class tours may be scheduled by calling (850) 729 5376. More information is available on the web at http://www.nwfsc.edu/sundial.