Workmen recently placed the head of 16th century astronomer Copernicus atop its pedestal in the garden of the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology, which will be formally dedicated tomorrow (Thursday, Oct. 22). The newly established Institute and its Burndy Library, located at 38 Memorial Drive, are fronted by a garden designed by Talitha Fabricius, a landscape architect in the Planning Office. The garden symbolizes the shape of the solar system first described by Copernicus-the heliocentric sphere-when he postulated a sun-centered universe in 1543. In addition to the bronze head, which comes from the former Burndy Library garden in Norwalk, CT, the new garden contains a bronze sundial at its center, with trunnion supports braced at the bottom by two entwined dolphins. The equation of time, represented by the curve on the bronze-embossed plaque, converts apparent time (i.e. what is read on the sundial) to mean time. An additional, constant correction converts mean time to standard time (i.e. what clocks indicate)-in the case of the Dibner garden, an adjustment of 14 minutes, 55 seconds. The Burndy Library, which serves as a scholarly resource for the Dibner Institute, is one of the world's premier private collections of historical scientific books, manuscripts, scientific instruments and works of art. It was relocated to MIT by the Dibner Fund, headed by David Dibner, son of the library's founder, Bern Dibner, to make it more accessible to scholars. The library will be open to members of the MIT community and the public at times to be announced. Ms. Fabricius, the garden designer, gave careful consideration to the garden design: "We thought it would be appropriate to have the shape of the terrace somewhat reminiscent of the shape of the solar system," she said, adding that the garden has other symbolic circular shapes. It also includes a bluestone terrace and paving; four teak benches; eight solid classical urns to mark the edge of the garden; kousa dogwood trees that frame the walkway to the main entrance; an undulating row of rhododendrons; boxwoods that border the terrace and broadleaf evergreens. "It's designed to have greenery all year round," Ms. Fabricius said.
A version of this article appeared in the October 21, 1992 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 10).