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Museum buys rare astrolabe

August 01, 2008|From the Associated Press

A rare astronomy tool that helped medieval scientists tell time will remain in Britain after the British Museum scrambled to come up with the money to buy it.

The brass device, called an astrolabe quadrant, was sold at auction last year; the museum was outbid. But money from the National Heritage Memorial fund, the Art Fund and the British Museum Friends helped the museum purchase it recently for $700,000.

"The quadrant will be a very important addition to our medieval collection as an object which can explain the sophistication of science in the Middle Ages and the transfer of knowledge between Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities," deputy director of the British Museum Andrew Burnett said Thursday.

The 14th century device was used to calculate the height of the sun. With that information, a scientist could determine the time, date and other calculations.

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