Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Athanasius Kircher's Sunflower Clock

I feel a new obsession coming on. I am trying to keep it at bay. It is a monk called Athanasius Kircher who lived in the seventeenth century. According to this very interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, his most elegant invention was a sunflower clock. He placed a potted sunflower in a tub of water and then stuck a needle in its stem. As the sunflower followed the sun the position of the needle would move and point to the relevant hour on the scale on the outside of the tub.



Blogger Lee said...

This man is perfectly fascinating. How little most of us really know about the past, and those who inhabited it.

Tue Nov 28, 01:28:00 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

Go for it Clare!

Tue Nov 28, 01:40:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Snail messages and sunflower clocks: I remembered the name but little more (hieroglyphs?) Clearly we must make pilgrimage to the Athanasius Kircher society.

Tue Nov 28, 02:17:00 pm  
Blogger Anne S said...

He does sound quite marvellous, no wonder you're feeling a tad obsessed.

Tue Nov 28, 11:51:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lee, Jan and Anne S: yes, I really ought to be getting obsessed in something else but this weird monk keeps seeping into my brain. Monks in general I find fascinating.

Marly: Definitely. Althanasius Kircher pilgrimage high on the list of must-dos...

Wed Nov 29, 08:15:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You'd better write a short story about him before Andrea Barrett does it!

If you like monks, allow me to recommend a classic Victorian novel to you: _The Cloister and the Hearth_ by Charles Reade. Old Reade was an Oxford don whose expertise was in medieval studies and, boy, could he write -- novels & plays. This novel is about Gerard, the monk who supposedly fathered Erasmus.

Lots of great, funny scenes & medieval lore, and also quite a bit of Reade's own particular fetish (getting spanked). Hence, he clearly revels in one long chapter set in Rome about the self-flagellants who whip themselves around town in some kind of sympathy with Jesus. (I've forgotten now what these people were called, but p'raps you remember, Clare, if you follow monklore.)

Thu Nov 30, 06:31:00 pm  

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