Albert Crehore is one of the giants upon whose shoulders many nuclear physicists stand today. A professor at Dartmouth College and Cornell University and author of important works about the nature of the atom and electromagnetic theory, he first built the prototype of this sundial while still a boy.
Crehore came from an illustrious family. His cousin Harvey Cushing was Director of Harvard Medical School and a professor at Yale Medical School. His uncle Edward P. William was co-founder of the Sherwin Williams Company, and his cousin (Williams’ daughter) Sarah Granger Williams, married Abram Garfield, the youngest son of President Garfield.
His family was also mathematically inclined, and Crehore displayed a talent for engineering quite early. An interest in astronomy led him to “wonder what sort of a path the shadow of a point would make, cast by sun-light upon an horizontal plane surface.” After doing a rudimentary experiment in his backyard with a sharp stick and a drawing board, and discovering that the shadow made a curve when marked at intervals, he saw that it was the intersection of a place with a cone, or a hyperbola. Crehore was able to find the equation for this curve, which could be adjusted for other times of the year, even for each month. This was the beginning of his famous sundial.
Crehore’s inventions were numerous and influential. With George Squier, he developed a magneto-optical streak camera, "The Polarizinq Photo-chronograph," in 1896 in order to measure the speed of projectiles both inside cannon and directly after they left the cannon barrel. This was one of the earliest photonic programs. They also worked to develop sychronous AC telegraphic systems. His biggest contribution was that of multiplexing in 1910, for which he was elected to the National Academy of Science in 1919. He also received a patent for his telegraphic alphabet or code in 1921. Squier, it must be noted, went on to create “Muzak.”