Bohnenberger gyroscope

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made in London

Postcard of Bohnenberger gyroscope.
© National Museums Scotland

Bohnenberger gyroscope

This demonstration orbital globe is an example of the device designed by professor J.G. Bohnenberger of Tubingen University in 1817 to provide the correct dynamical demonstration of the precession of the equinoxes.

The globe, which bulges at the equator like the Earth, consists of two wooden halves mounted within three brass rings. The globe is set spinning, and by gyroscopic action mimics the movements which result in the observed very slow drift (over a period of about 22,000 years) of the positions of the stars in the sky. The device, mounted on a mahogany plinth, comes in its own carrying case. It is signed, and carries the trade card for the instrument suppliers W. & S. Jones of London.

The Jones firm claimed they could supply apparatus made to special order, and this item would appear to have been made from the 1819 published description, for a wealthy North American collector named Charles Nicoll Bancker (1778 or 1779-1869). Although signed by the Jones firm, there is a concealed signature inside the wooden globe of the subcontracting instrument maker, William Stiles.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-001-010-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0504: National Museums Scotland Part 2
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1990.26
Date: 1831
c. 1820
What: Gyroscope
Who: Bohnenburger (Eponym)
W. and S. Jones, London (Maker)
Where: England, London
Description: Bohnenburger gyroscope by W. and S. Jones of London, c. 1820
  • Simpson, A.D.C. 'La plus brilliante collection qui existe au monde' a lost American collection of the nineteenth century. Journal of the history of Collections 7 (1995), pp 187-196. 
  • Simpson, A.D.C. A Sub-Contractor of W.& S. Jones Identified. Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society No. 39 (1993), pp 23-27. 
  • von Bohnenberger, [J.G.F.]. Beschreibung einer Mashine zur Erlauterung der Geseze der Umdrehung der Erde um ihre Axe .... Tubinger Blatter fur Naturwissenschaften und Arzneikunde 3 (1817), pp 72-83. 
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