Friday, February 01, 2013

The World Inside A Spanish Globe

Study Of A Mysterious 100-Year-Old Interactive Toy – Perhaps The Wikipedia Of Its Day – Is Painting A Vivid Picture Of Spain’s Path Into The Modern World

New research at the University of Cambridge has lifted the lid on an unusual Spanish globe. Until now, the globe in the University of Cambridge's Whipple Museum of the History of Science has been shrouded in mystery: where, when and why was it made? Who would have used it? Most fundamentally, what is it -- some kind of scientific instrument or a child's toy?

The globe (c. 1907) is unlike any other currently known. Inside are beautiful illustrations, encyclopaedic entries and a planetarium that re-enacts the revolution of the planets around the sun at the turn of a cog. Research by Seb Falk in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science has brought us closer to understanding the puzzling object. Remarkably, his work highlights how it symbolises a wave of change that swept 19th-century Spain into the modern world -- from increasing trade in scientific instrumentation to a move of the education system towards interactive learning. 

“Making a globe like this would have been technically difficult: apart from the construction of the globe from brass, wood and pasteboard, the inside of the sphere is hand-covered with encyclopaedic information designed expressly for the object and printed using the latest chromolithographic technology. All in all, it’s rather surprising that such an object was made in Spain, a country where there was no previous tradition of globe making.” 

Yet Falk believes that the balance of evidence weighs in favour of a Spanish provenance. “The prime meridian is shown running through Madrid, and the encyclopaedic entries are in Spanish.”

The Whipple Museum holds an internationally important collection of scientific instruments and models, dating from the Middle Ages to the present.

Via: "Cambridge University"

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