Princeton's Rittenhouse Orrery

  • Type: Orrery
I would have you pursue your Orrery in your own way, without any regard to an ignorant or prevailing taste. All you have to study is truth, and to display the glorious system of Copernicus in a proper manner;--and to make your machine as much an original, as possible. I beg you will not limit yourself in the price. I am now perfectly convinced, that you can dispose of it to advantage; and should be sorry you would lose one hour more in fears or doubts about it. In fact, I have laid such plans for the disposal of it, that I have almost a moral certainty of having a demand for more than one of the kind. - Thomas Barton
This Machine is intended to have three faces, standing perpendicular to the horizon: that in the front to be four feet square, made of sheet-brass, curiously polished, silvered, and painted in proper places, and otherwise ornamented. From the centre arises an axis, to support a gilded brass ball, intended to represent the Sun. Round this ball move others, made of brass or ivory, to represent the Planets: They are to move in elliptical orbits, having the central ball in one focus; and their motions to be sometimes swifter, and sometimes slower, as nearly according to the true law of an equable description of areas as is possible, without too great a complication of wheel-work. The orbit of each Planet is likewise to be properly inclined to those of the others; and their Aphelia and Nodes justly placed; and their velocities so accurately adjusted, as not to differ sensibly from the tables of Astronomy in some thousands of years. David Rittenhouse

Princeton University's Rittenhouse Orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system built in 1770 by Pennsylvania clockmaker and self-taught astronomer, David Rittenhouse. It currently hangs on a wall near the entrance to Princeton University's astrophysical sciences department building, Peyton Hall. - AsNotedIn

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Y/M/D Association Description Place Locale Food Event
1767/02/21 Rev Thomas Barton offers to pay David Rittenhouse's expenses, not exceeding a stipulated sum, create two Orreries and to dispose of them a set price.
1770/02/05 I never met with greater mortification than to find Mr Rittenhouse had, in my absence, made a sort of agreement to let his Orrery go to the Jersey College. - Rev Thomas Barton
1770/04/23 John Witherspoon Buyer Dr Witherspoon, the President of the College of New Jersey, payes David Rittenhouse 300 pounds for the newly completed Orrery. Rittenhouse Farmhouse Norristown, PA
1770/04/23 David Rittenhouse Inventor Dr Witherspoon, the President of the College of New Jersey, payes David Rittenhouse 300 pounds for the newly completed Orrery. Rittenhouse Farmhouse Norristown, PA
1771/04/06 Princeton's Rittenhouse Orrery arrives in Nassau Hall where it becomes a tourist attraction for travelers from across the world. Nassau Hall, Princeton University Princeton
1776/08/27 John Adams Life John Adams admires a most beautiful machine - an Orrery or planetarium constructed by Mr Rittenhouse of Philadelphia. It exhibits almost every motion in the astronomical world. Nassau Hall, Princeton University Princeton
1777/00/00 Princeton's Rittenhouse Orrery is damaged during the Continental Army's occupation of Nassau Hall in 1776-1777. American soldiers removed the wheels and kept them as handsome curiosities. Nassau Hall, Princeton University Princeton
1804/00/00 Rittenhouse Orrery is sent to Henry Voight of Philadelphia for repairs in 1804, at a cost of $500 (roughly $10,000 in 2014 dollars).
1893/06/00 Princeton's Rittenhouse Orrery is part of Princeton's exhibit at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, and then place in storage upon its return. World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago
1948/00/00 Carpenters working in McCosh Hall discover the orrery in its World's Fair shipping box, and bring it to astronomy professor Newton Pierce for identification. Because its damaged condition, the discovery was not publicized until the spring of 1951.
1954/00/00 Bernard Peyton funds restoration of the orrery where it is exhibited in the Firestone Library. It currently hangs on a wall near the entrance to Peyton Hall, which was built in 1966 for the astrophysical sciences department.

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Particulars for Princeton's Rittenhouse Orrery:
Science Astronomy branch of science which deals with celestial objects, space, and the physical universe as a whole
Structure type Mechanical
Art Type Objet d'art a small, ornamental work of art
Device Orrery a mechanical model of the solar system, or of just the sun, earth, and moon, used to represent their relative positions and motions

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