The World’s Oldest Working Planetarium

Eise Eisinga by Willem Bartel van der Kooi (1827).

The people of Denmark were in a panic in 1774. They felt that the world was about to end because of an conjunction of the moon and planets of Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter. The theory was put forward in a book, by Reverend Eelco Alta, that this conjunction would cause the earth to be pushed out of its orbit and life as the people knew it would end.

Self-educated Eise Eisinga did not accept the theory. Setting about to explain to his fellow countrymen why the theory was wrong, he constructed a planetarium in his home. He hoped to have his model built in six months to stop the panic that was quickly overcoming Denmark.

He would work as a wool carder for his father by day and return to his home at night to spend many sleepless nights building his model. In all, he used over nine tons of oak wood to construct the model. The model took seven years to construct!

During those seven years, Eisinga paid careful attention to all details. In the model the earth takes a year to rotate around the sun, while Saturn takes 29 years. Simply amazing is the detail that Eisinga was able to construct into his model using 10,000 nails to carefully control the planet’s movements.

The pendulum powered model is still working today and visitors are invited to tour the modest home where the planetarium can be found. Visitors will be amazed at the model, the many old astronomical tools on display and the photos of early life in Denmark.

Reference:

Eise Eisinga Planetarium. (n.d.). Welcome. Retrieved February 24, 2012, from http://www.planetarium-friesland.nl/engels.html

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