‘I know we’re a bit cramped for space, darling, what with the kids sleeping in a drawer under our bed, but I have a new hobby. I want to build a planetarium in our living room ceiling.’
Without the aid of a computer, electricity or an education past primary school level, Eise Eisinga did just that. It took him from 1774 till 1781 to build a wooden, clockwork-powered working model of the Solar System. It’s now World Heritage listed, and it’s easily the most extraordinary thing we’ve seen in Friesland, in the northern Netherlands.
Eisinga was a wool carder by trade, though he had an interest in mathematics. A coming alignment of planets in 1774 caused many of his contemporaries to fear that the resulting collision would knock the Earth off its orbit and into the Sun. Mr Eisinga started his DIY project to show that this was unlikely to be a problem.
A few months after he finished building it, Uranus was discovered. This was probably just as well for the Eisinga family, because including it in the Solar System model would have required a much bigger house.
The Friesland Planetarium is open to the public year round, Tuesday to Sunday.
Entrance fee is EUR4.75, with discounts for seniors, children and groups. See: http://www.planetarium-friesland.nl/en