Margaret Folkard and John Ward are physicists from Adelaide, South Australia, who spent much of our professional careers in the research laboratories of the Australian Department of Defence. Between us we have tackled a wide range of physics problems both theoretical and experimental in fields ranging from gas discharges, through solid state and semiconductor lasers, semiconductor crystal growth, thin film optics and multilayer thin film growth, infrared detection, visionics and various solar devices.
We share a passionate interest in gnomonics, which is the art and science of using the shadows cast by the sun to tell the time and the date. Our fascination with sundials began in 1976 when Margaret wanted to make a surprise gift for friends who 'had everything'. I asked my workmates for suggestions and John suggested making a sundial.
Before undertaking this project, I wanted to become familiar with all the practical and historical background around the topic. However, I was disappointed at the paucity and confusing presentation of the 'classic' sundial texts, which used geometry and log tables and were based solely on the Northern Hemisphere.
As our joint fascination with gnomonics intensified, we resolved one day to write something better and in 1994 did so, improving the first edition of their book with our current authoratative volume 'Sundials Australia' in 1996.
This has been reprinted many times. See Our Book.
Our first etched brass horizontal sundial was a great success and led to a continuing involvement.
Over the years we have made many types of sundials for locations in Australia and around the world. We are both keen travellers and have been fortunate to visit many far-flung locations - an interest in gnomonics certainly adds an extra dimension to travelling!
Various activities in producing our sundials
As people started requesting that we make further sundials, we gradually developed a mechanical workshop equipped with all the tools needed to make sundials properly – many of the tools we had to build themselves, either because they didn’t exist or because they were too expensive.
Over the years, we have undertaken many technical college courses to improve our skills, including fitting and machining, foundrywork and screen printing methods. Margaret completed a 4 year night time Adult Apprenticeship course in fitting and machining because she had not learned workshop skills at school and was a hazard in the workshop!
In our workshop we aim to resurrect the art of the craftsman and combine it with modern techniques. We use photopolymers, process cameras, lasers, waterjet cutting, stone techniques and computers. In addition, we use pen and ink, hammers, pliers, chisels, files, grinders and lots of sweat to achieve our end products. We have always concentrated on quality and accuracy. Consequently, nothing leaves our workshop that we are not proud of.
One of the great highlights of our gnomonic career came when John was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study sundials. In 1984 we roamed for 5 months around USA, Eastern and Western Europe and UK seeking out sundials and making invaluable gnomonic contacts. The prestige of the Churchill Fellowship gained us entry into many amazing places we would never have seen otherwise. Much of what we learned is included in our publication 'Sundials Australia'. Our Book.
We have been enthusiastic members of the since its inception )
See links to pdf files about our work.