Sundial Enthusiast Woody Sullivan
Seattle’s Woody Sullivan sheds new light on the ancient art of telling time
| July 2013
“The irony is the whole point,” says University of Washington astronomy professor Woody Sullivan. He’s talking about his quest to make Seattle the sundial capital of North America. The 69-year-old Phinney Ridge resident is creator of the Seattle Sundial Trail, a self-directed tour of 12 of the city’s best dials, including the elaborate, interactive one at Gas Works Park and the large vertical one mounted high on the southwest wall of the UW’s Physics and Astronomy Building. Sullivan was the lead designer of the latter and chose the dial’s motto: “What you seek is but a shadow.” He also installed a web cam (sunny.astro.washington.edu), making it one of only two sundials in the world that anyone can check online. “That has definitely been my biggest project in Seattle, and the one that really turned me into a sundial nut,” he says of the UW dial. Sullivan has even incorporated sundials into his current work in astrobiology (the study of the possibility of life beyond Earth), by designing the “Marsdial” that sits atop one of the Mars rovers, feeding information about seasonal patterns back to NASA. “I seem to like to do things that are a little bit out of the mainstream,” he notes. As for Seattle’s status as a sundial capital? When it comes to “interesting, nonstandard dials,” Sullivan believes, “We’re just about there.” And starting this month, you may actually be able to read them.