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probably made in Edinburgh

Postcard of Cometarium.
© National Museums Scotland


A cometarium is a device for illustrating the elliptical motion of a comet around the sun. This example was made around 1790, probably by John Miller, a scientific instrument maker based in Edinburgh.

The cometarium uses a system of pulleys to turn the mechanism. A constant rate of rotation of one wheel produces a variable speed of rotations of the wheel propelling the comet around the sun.

The device was used to teach students at the University of Edinburgh when astronomy formed a part of the ordinary arts curriculum.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-100-102-732-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1975.53
Date: Around 1790
c. 1790
Subject: 3. ASTRONOMY, Models (Departmental Classification)
Who: John Miller, Edinburgh (Maker)
Where: Scotland, Midlothian, Edinburgh
Description: Cometaraium, a device for illustrating the elliptical motion of a comet around the sun, by John Miller, Edinburgh, c. 1790
  • Clarke, T.N., Morrison-Low, A.D. & Simpson, A.D.C., Brass & glass scientific instrument making workshops in Scotland as illustrated by instruments from the Arthur Frank Collection at the Royal Museum of Scotland. Edinburgh: NMS, 1989, p 30 
  • Millburn, J. R., Wheelwright of the Heavens. London: 1988, p 64 
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