Speaker's Night: It's Sirius O'Clock: Astronomical Timekeeping in Ancient Egypt

Sarah Symons
Wednesday, April 10, 2019 - 7:30pm to 9:00pm

Ancient Egyptian astronomical activity included some unique and interesting ways of using stars to mark time. The evidence for these activities comes from texts and tables preserved to the present in temples, tombs, coffins, and papyrus fragments. This talk will describe three different sorts of star table that are related to timekeeping and calendrics. We will look at the stars, the texts, the observational methods we think lie behind them, and the challenges of dealing with 4000-year-old astronomical materials.

Dr. Sarah Symons is an Associate Professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Science and an associate member of the Departments of History and Physics & Astronomy. She was educated in the UK, gaining a BSc Honours Degree in Mathematics and Astronomy and PhD in History of Astronomy in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, University of Leicester. She began her career as an academic pedagogical project manager in the UK. Since arriving at McMaster, she has been a pedagogical designer and teaching professor in the Honours Integrated Science Program and has also helped to develop the SCIENCE nexus of courses in the Faculty of Science.

Her major teaching interests are centred around science literacy and scientific skills development in science courses big and small. Sarah’s involvement in scholarship of teaching and learning includes pedagogical research in science education, educational consultancy focussing on active learning and assessment design, and collaborative projects with teaching-stream and interdisciplinary faculty internationally. She was awarded a MIIETL Impact Fellowship in 2015 and recently her skills in faculty development and managing curriculum change have been recognised by a visiting professorship at the University of Tokyo. Sarah’s research in history of astronomy concentrates on astronomical texts and instruments from ancient Egypt, investigating how the sky was perceived and described up to 4500 years ago.

She spends time "excavating" in museum basements around the world looking at fragments of astronomical documents, then translating, categorising, and publishing the results. She incorporates her interest in the role of astronomy in society in her outreach work with McMaster’s William J. McCallion Planetarium, of which she is the Director. The Planetarium, part of the Department of Physics & Astronomy, offers around 300 live educational shows per year to audiences of students, societies, and the local community on a variety of astronomical topics.

Talk starts at 7:30pm, socializing at 7:00pm.

Who can attend: Everyone
Fee: Free
Registration: Not required
Organized by: RASC - Toronto Centre
Location: Ontario Science Centre (follow the signs to the RASC meeting)