Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Eise Jeltes Eisinga and the Drawing Room Planetarium

Eise Jeltes Eisinga (Dronrijp, The Netherlands, 21st February 1744 – Franeker, The Netherlands, 27th August 1828) 


Eise Eisinga by Willem Bartel van der Kooi, 1827
Eise Eisinga by Willem Bartel van der Kooi, 1827

The salon where I write my tales of the long 18th century is the place where I feel happiest; it is here, surrounded by the things most precious to me, that I am at my most productive, creative and settled. It is far from minimalist and full of things that bring the 18th century to life, whether pictures, books or little items of interest.

Another man who turned his home into a most personal place was my guest today, Eise Jeltes Eisinga. Employed in the wool industry, Eisinga's true passion was for astronomy and since childhood he was fascinated in the heavens, publishing his first book on the subject at the age of just 17. He harboured grand dreams of being the proud master of his own planetarium and, in 1774, decided to make this a reality.


The Eise Eisinga Planetarium


Astronomers across Europe were keenly waiting for a conjunction of the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter that was due in May 1774. However, Reverend Eelco Alta, from Boazum in Netherlands predicted that this conjunction, due on 8th May, would mark the end of the world. In his own book he predicted that the planets and the moon would crash into one another and force the earth straight into the sun, resulting in a fiery demise for the planet and all life on it. Many who read the book took it as fact and soon people were just a little panicked that they were headed for Armageddon. 


Eise Eisinga Planetarium


Sure that the Reverend and his readers were mistaken, Eisinga set about constructing the Eise Eisinga Planetarium in his home in Franeker. Although he missed the conjunction by some time, he eventually completed construction in 1781. As soon as it was finished, the planetarium was out of date as Uranus was discovered soon after and there was no space remaining on the ceiling in which to paint this newly discovered planet! 

However, Eisinga's planetarium is still a remarkable achievement and King William I of the Netherlands certainly thought so; visiting the planetarium in 1818, he immediately decided to buy it for the nation and it remains in working order to this day!

10 comments:

Antoine Vanner said...

It's sad that the University of Franaker (which had been founded in 1585) was closed down by the French in 1811. Franaker is a beautiful town and the university buildings are extant. Well worth a visit! This is one of the very few cases I have heard of in which a university ceased to exist.

Madame Gilflurt said...

That is very sad indeed; it does sound like there's a story there!

Charles Bazalgette said...

About thirty years ago, as an avid antique collector and dealer, I bought in the market in Honiton, Devonshire an 18C silver wedding spoon engraved "Rein Jacobs & Feikjen Jeltes". After much research and internet enquiries I was contacted by a genealogist in Friesland called Bouwe Vandermeulen, who informed me that Feikjen Jeltes was a full sister of Eise Jeltes Eisinga. Accordingly he arranged to buy the spoon because of this connection and as far as I know it is now in the museum. I wanted very much for the spoon to return home, so this was a very satisfactory result.

Madame Gilflurt said...

Charles, that is a wonderful story; I'm so pleased to learn that the spoon returned home, what a lucky find!

Anonymous said...

That must have been very exciting. I am going to the planetarium next month and will look for this spoon. I am one of Eisinga's descendents from his second marriage.

Catherine Curzon said...

Do get back in touch and let us know about your trip; how wonderful to count Eisinga as an ancestor!

Leonard smith said...

Now I wonder why The French closed the University .

Carol Cameleon said...

Fascinating. Shame it was missing a planet though. Popping over from #ArchiveDay

Catherine Curzon said...

I know, how annoyed would you be when they found that new planet?!

Catherine Curzon said...

That's another post... ;-)