The Columbia University sundial, two slabs of granite with brass attachments on the base designed by Columbia graduate William Ordway Partridge in 1914,  occupies a prime spot on College Walk, set between Butler Library to the south and the Alma Mater statue and the Low Memorial Library on the north. However, it no longer can tell the time or date, and sits there in dignified retirement. It used to present a much more striking appearance.


Until 1946, a 16-ton giant polished granite green sphere sat on the pedestal. It was known as a gnomon, for the part of the sundial that casts a shadow on a measured dial on the surface. The date of the year could be determined by the shadow the gnomon cast on the base. In ’46 it developed a crack and it was considered prudent to remove it. In the intervening years, it was stolen from storage and was last seen, according to some reports, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I’m unsure if CU has made a great effort to have it returned.




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  1. Velvethead says:

    Is the base with inscription still visible? Can’t quite tell from the photo angle if they changed the heights of the walkways and buried it.

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