Fleming Memorial Sundial - Atlas Obscura

Fleming Memorial Sundial

Kirkcaldy, Scotland

An ingenious way to immortalize the inventor of universal time. 


Scotland’s contributions to engineering and science are a proud part of the country’s history. Among these inventions are the postage stamp (James Chalmers, 1834), the telephone (Alexander Graham Bell, 1876), and penicillin (Sir Alexander Fleming, in 1928), to name just a few. It would come as no surprise that every town and village would have an inventor, or two, in their midst.

Such is the case with in seaside town of Kirkcaldy, which lies to the north of the Firth of Forth, in the Kingdom of Fife. Kirkcaldy is mostly known as the birthplace of 18th-century economist Adam Smith, who popularized the idea of capitalism with his book The Wealth of Nations. However, there is another creative thinker who has recently been given his due and that is Sir Sanford Fleming.

In 1897, Fleming was knighted by Queen Victoria for pioneering the alterations to standard time and creating time zones. Late in the 19th century, at the International Meridian Conference, with the contributions of Fleming, the world was divided up into 24 time zones, beginning with Greenwich, England, and increasing one hour for every 15 degrees of longitude.

Late in the summer of 2022, the town unveiled what is known as an analemmatic sundial directly across from the waterfront. This large and flat memorial was to commemorate Fleming’s contributions to the development of universal time.

The analemmatic sundial uses sunlight to indicate the passage of time, rather than timepieces. These chronometers can be found throughout the world in gardens and on older buildings before the invention of clocks. The Fleming memorial takes up a large space, with a rusted circle on the ground marked with raised numbers. At the center is a disc with letters indicating the first letter of every month of the year. A person stands on the letter of the month they are in, and their shadow will indicate the time of day.

Know Before You Go

The sundial is accessibly 24hours a day, but for obvious reasons, only works when there is sunlight.

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December 27, 2023

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