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Eise Eisinga Planetarium

Date of Submission: 17/08/2011
Criteria: (i)(ii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Education, Culture and Science
State, Province or Region:
Province of Friesland
Coordinates: N53 11 15 E5 32 38
Ref.: 5629

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The Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium in Franeker is the oldest working planetarium in the world. Its moving model of the solar system was constructed between 1774 and 1781 by Eise Eisinga, a Frisian wool-comber. It is still in its original state.

Eisinga built the planetarium in his own home. So that it would fit into his living-room, he used a scale of 1:1,000,000,000,000 (1 millimetre: 1 million kilometres).

Eisinga built the planetarium to disprove a contemporary prophecy that certain planets were on a collision course and that the end of the world was therefore imminent. He hoped his model would demonstrate that the planets were actually in conjunction. He was not a scientist in the formal sense but a creative genius who built the planetarium entirely on his own initiative.

The planetarium has always been accessible to interested members of the public. It has also received scientific recognition. All Eisinga's books and writings have been preserved and are accessible to the public.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium in Franeker is the oldest working planetarium in the world. Eisinga was a self-taught amateur mathematician. He designed and built a model of the solar system using cog-wheels. It is still in excellent working order. The planetarium was designed to scientifically discredit contemporary prophecies that the world was about to end.

Criterion i: as early as 7 September 1783, Professor J.H. van Swinden reported to the curators of the then University of Franeker that this Planetarium is of itself unique and without equal, and there is no other known work of art in which the disposition, movements and appearance of the heavenly bodies are so numerous and so accurately rendered, as is evident from the acclaim it has received from leading scholars in other countries, and even from English journalists. The planetarium is still a unique and creative tool for demonstrating the orbits of the planets to the general public.

Criterion ii: The planetarium represents the values of the Enlightenment and of the long regional and cultural tradition of the 'lay scholar'. The trend had already been set by the mathematician Adriaan Metius (1572-1635), who taught not only in Latin, the customary language of learning, but also in Dutch. Many of his pupils went on to become scholars and engineers, but they also included a string of 'farmer-professors' as they were known. Eise Eisinga is the most famous of these lay scholars. He is also the only one to have left such a substantial technological legacy.

Criterion iv: The planetarium is an outstanding example of a technological ensemble illustrating the Enlightenment in the north of the Netherlands.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The planetarium dates from 1781 and is authentic. It is in full working order and is completely intact, with regard to both form and materials. Maintenance is still carried out according to Eise Eisinga's own instructions.

The planetarium is located in Eise Eisinga's original living-room. Both the planetarium and its location are completely genuine, so the site meets the conditions of integrity and/or authenticity.

Comparison with other similar properties

The Eise Eisinga Planetarium is the world's oldest working planetarium. Eise Eisinga's original working drawings were used in its construction, as were his original Dutch spelling and typeface.

There are various planetariums in use all over the world. Originally, such constructions were purely mechanical. The first planetarium to operate with a projector dates from 1924. Most contemporary planetariums are of this kind.