The William & Mary sundial was probably made in London during the seventeenth or early eighteenth century and was most likely at William & Mary when it was chartered or soon thereafter. Subsidiary dial rings simultaneously give the local time for six world locations indicating the sundial was made with a cultural or “world-view” intent.

The earliest reference to the sundial indicates it was located on a wooden pedestal in front of the President's House in 1815. It was removed during the Civil War by Union Chaplain William H. Gilder for protection and returned in 1889. In 1912, it was moved behind the Wren Building between Science Hall and the library and placed on a sandstone pedestal, a gift of the staff of the Flat Hat, to commemorate the first year of its publication.

In 1971, a fiberglass replica of the sundial was created by George Crawford of the Physics Department in 1975. It was later replaced by the present bronze replica. The original sundial was restored and placed in Swem Library. It is currently on display in the Special Collections Research Center's reading room in Swem Library.