Sara J. Schechner

Sara J. Schechner
Harvard University | Harvard · Department of History of Science

PhD, Harvard University

About

143
Publications
9,718
Reads
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131
Citations
Introduction
Sara J. Schechner is the David P. Wheatland Curator of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments and a member of the Department of History of Science, Harvard University. She specializes in the history of astronomy and early scientific instruments.
Additional affiliations
May 2014 - present
Harvard University
Position
  • HarvardX instructor and course developer
October 2000 - October 2015
Harvard University
Position
  • David P. Wheatland Curator of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments

Publications

Publications (143)
Article
Our discussion of Niccolò Tornioli's The Astronomers questions some of the traditional identifications of its characters, although we cannot claim to have solved these figures’ identities and several remain a mystery. We do present new iconographic interpretations of particular scientific instruments, diagrams, and natural phenomena in the canvas....
Article
Full-text available
Tim’s Vermeer is a recent documentary feature film following engineer and self-described non-artist Tim Jenison’s extensive efforts to “paint a Vermeer” by means of a novel optical telescope and mirror-comparator procedure. His efforts were inspired by the controversial claim that some Western painters as early as 1420 secretly built optical device...
Book
The second of a two-volume catalogue that documents and interprets America's finest collection of sundials and related instruments. Part of a series: Historic Scientific Instruments of the Adler Planetarium, vol. 4. In preparation.
Book
The first of a two-volume catalogue that documents and interprets America's finest collection of sundials and related instruments. Part of a series: Historic Scientific Instruments of the Adler Planetarium, vol. 3.
Conference Paper
This was the 2018 Andrew Somerville Memorial Lecture to the British Sundial Society, Norwich, UK, April 2018
Conference Paper
This was my plenary lecture as the recipient of the 2018 LeRoy E. Doggett Prize for Historical Astronomy at the annual meeting of American Astronomical Society, National Harbor, MD, January 2018. Also delivered at the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture, Cambridge, MA, March 2018, and the joint meeting of the Antique Telescope Society / Hartness...
Book
This collection of essays discusses the marketing of scientific and medical instruments from the eighteenth century to the First World War. The evidence presented here is derived from sources as diverse as contemporary trade literature, through newspaper advertisements, to rarely-surviving inventories, and from the instruments themselves. The pictu...
Article
Full-text available
The application of photography to astronomy was a critical step in the development of astrophysics at the end of the nineteenth century. Using custom-built photographic telescopes and objective prisms, astronomers took images of the sky on glass plates during a 100-year period from many observing stations around the globe. After each plate was deve...
Chapter
The study of scientific instrumentation in the United States is a relatively new field of historical research, even though mathematical instruments were carried onboard the European ships that brought explorers to the coasts of North and South America 500 years ago. This chapter traces the historiographical development of the field, describes curre...
Chapter
Scientific Instruments and Collections, vol. 5
Article
Full-text available
The Leyden jar was arguably the most important instrument for electrical experiments in the second half of the 18 th century, and Benjamin Franklin's fame as a natural philosopher was based largely on his explanation of how it worked. In two remarkable letters written in the 1750s to scholars in Boston, Franklin offers instruction on the making of...
Article
Full-text available
Historical analysis of a Galapagos tortoise specimen marked "Ship Abigail" from Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology, with remarks on Herman Melville, Charles Darwin, and whaling. Read it here: http://www.wondersandmarvels.com/2015/07/tortoises-sail-the-sea.html.
Conference Paper
Talk and object sessions with exquisite sundials from the Webster Institute of the Adler Planetarium.
Book
In a world obsessed with the virtual, tangible things are once again making history. Tangible Things invites readers to look closely at the things around them, ordinary things like the food on their plate and extraordinary things like the transit of planets across the sky. It argues that almost any material thing, when examined closely, can be a li...
Book
Full-text available
Time: We find it, keep it, measure it, obey it, rely on it, waste it, save it, chop it and try to stop it. We organize our lives around it, and yet, do we really know what time is? Drawing upon collections in Harvard’s scientific, historical archaeological, anthropological, and natural history museums and libraries, the book explores the answers gi...
Book
Interactive eBook with video. Available for free download on iTunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/time-and-time-again/id977218203?mt=11.
Conference Paper
Talk and hands-on opportunity with replica instrument at the workshop, "Galileo 450th Anniversary," organized by the Boston University Center for Philosophy and History of Science, with Harvard’s History of Science Department, Boston and Cambridge, October 2014.
Article
On the occasion of the IAU’s General Assembly in Beijing in 2012, the Working Groups for Astronomy and World Heritage (WG-AWH) and Historical Instruments (WG-HI) of Commission 41 (History of Astronomy)—led by Clive Ruggles and Sara Schechner—held a joint science meeting concerning shared issues in the “Conservation and Protection of Different Categ...
Article
In May 1761, John Winthrop packed up two students, two telescopes, a clock, and an octant, and embarked for Newfoundland, to observe the Transit of Venus. Winthrop's departure was hasty. Only days before had the President and Fellows of Harvard College approve Professor Winthrop's request to take the college apparatus behind enemy lines during the...
Article
In January 2007 in Seattle, the Council of the American Astronomical Society established the Working Group for the Preservation of Astronomical Heritage (WGPAH) in response to a report from the society's Historical Astronomy Division (HAD). Twelve members of WGPAH are chosen on the basis of their professional qualifications relating to the preserva...
Article
Full-text available
The Working Group on Historical Instruments (WG-HI) was founded by the members of Commission 41 at the 2000 Manchester IAU General Assembly with two main objectives: to assemble a bibliography of existing publications relating to historical instruments, and to encourage colleagues to carry out research and publish their results. Since then the conc...
Article
Full-text available
"The Material Culture of Astronomy in Daily Life: Sundials, Science, and Social Change," Journal for the History of Astronomy (2001). Translated into Polish by Darek Oczki, and posted with color illustrations in three parts on the Polish website, http://gnomonika.pl at these addresses: 1. Zegary słoneczne, nauka i przemiany społeczne (cz. 1): htt...
Article
Full-text available
Newsletter of the Historical Astronomy Division of the American Astronomical Society
Conference Paper
Lecture and hands-on workshop delivered as part of the Paul and Irene Hollister Seminar on Glass, Bard Graduate Center, March 2010.
Conference Paper
Invited talk delivered in the symposium, “How Instruments Change Hands,” organized by Sara Schechner and Allison Morrison-Low for the XXIII International Congress of History of Science and Technology, Budapest, July 2009.
Article
Focusing on New England, this paper will examine the distribution and use of the telescope in America from colonial times until the end of the 18th century. We will find that most telescopes of the period were imported and prized possessions. I will discuss who owned these telescopes and how they acquired them; the uses to which telescopes were put...
Article
Full-text available
The Historical Instruments Working Group (WG-HI) and Commission 41 started planning an interdisciplinary conference titled Astronomy and its instruments before and after Galileo since January 2007. This conference, as an IYA2009 initiative, aims “to highlight mankind's path toward an improved knowledge of the sky using mathematical and mechanical t...
Conference Paper
Invited talk in the session, “Picturing Instruments: Case Studies in Iconography,” at the XXVII Symposium of the IUHPS Scientific Instrument Commission, Lisbon, September 2008. In preparation for publication.
Article
Full-text available
The Working Group Historical Instruments (WG-HI) was founded by the members of Commission 41 at the 2000 Manchester IAU XXIV General Assembly, with the main objectives to assemble a bibliography of existing publications relating to such instruments, and to encourage colleagues to carry out research and publish their results. Membership of the WG-HI...
Article
While exploring the Chickahominy River in Virginia by canoe in December 1607, Captain John Smith was ambushed by 200 Powhatan Indians and chased into the swamp. Wounded by arrows and mired in the cold mud, Smith surrendered and was led to their chieftain, Opechancanough. Smith played for time. He pulled out his pocket sundial and proceeded to deliv...
Article
Full-text available
journal of the North American Sundial Society
Chapter
Proceedings of the XXV Scientific Instrument Symposium
Article
In May 1761, John Winthrop packed up two students, an excellent clock, an octant, and two telescopes, and embarked for Newfoundland to observe the Transit of Venus. Winthrop's departure was hasty. Only days before had the President and Fellows of Harvard College approved Professor Winthrop's request to take the college apparatus behind enemy lines...
Article
Inspection of surviving mirrors and related objects shows that they were too crude to offer the early Renaissance painter an optical short-cut to a naturalistic image of his subject. The craftsmanship of mirror makers was independent of and inferior to the quality of theories of image formation of the day.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Inspection of surviving mirrors and related objects shows that they were too crude to offer the early Renaissance painter an optical short-cut to a naturalistic image of his subject. The craftsmanship of mirror makers was independent of and inferior to the quality of theories of image formation of the day.
Conference Paper
Examined archaeological evidence of sundials made in the English colony of Avalon.
Conference Paper
Helen Sawyer Hogg Public Lecture of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, St. John’s, Newfoundland, July 2004. Versions of this talk were also delivered in Dresden to the IUHPS Scientific Instrument Commission and at Harvard University in 2004. A shortened version has been published in the book, Tangible Things: Making History through Objects...
Article
Special Issue of UNESCO Courier: "Science and Creation: The Riddle of the Skies"
Conference Paper
Invited talk delivered at the New York Academy of Sciences at the request of the Physics, Astronomy, and History and Philosophy of Science Sections, April 2000.
Article
Technology and Culture 41.3 (2000) 578-579 The astrolabe has become a symbol of medieval and Renaissance science. Yet few who see such striking instruments appreciate their function, complexity, variety, or history. Everyone who works in the field of medieval astronomical instrumentation has benefited by the generous and enthusiastic assistance of...
Article
Full-text available
In a lively investigation into the boundaries between popular culture and early-modern science, Sara Schechner Genuth presents a case study that challenges the view that rationalism was at odds with popular belief in the development of scientific theories. Schechner Genuth delineates the evolution of people's understanding of comets, showing that u...
Book
Hardcover published under the name Sara Schechner Genuth (1997). Paperback (1999) and all subsequent editions published under the name Sara J. Schechner.

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