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A Remarkable American Astronomical Device

Planetarium/ Armillary Sphere/ Scientific Education. BRYANT, Henry L. [Hartford, CT., 1872]
The Celestial Indicator .
18 1/2 inches high, 11 1/2 inches diameter, 7 1/2 inch diameter base. Comprised of a series of calibrated brass armillary bands forming a spherical frame, surrounding an orrery mechanism comprised of the various known planets represented by wooden spheres on wire armatures, spherical and painted wooden representation of the earth with revolving moon sphere, a rectangular plate representing the asteroid belt, and at the very center a brass sphere representing the sun, turning by a knob on the outer part of the sphere. The brass bands mounted with instruction label, label showing the stars in the zodiac belt, and central front label on rounded plate showing the northern sky including the serpent constellation. All raised on a round cast iron base with gilt-line decoration. Some tarnishing of metals, still excellent condition overall.


Rare. One of the most interesting and sophisticated American globe/planetary devices ever invented. Bryant's patented Celestial Indicator is a unique two-in-one apparatus, combining an armillary sphere (rings showing the celestial circles of the earth and sky) and an orrery that shows relative planetary movement in the solar system. In his patent application, Bryant stated that the device was intended for astronomical instruction in schools and colleges; he also provided a lengthy description of its functions--see the online reference below. A label pasted on the device also has an explanation of it and directions for its use.

The Smithsonian's globe scholar, Deborah Jean Warner, described Bryant and his device as follows:
"An artist of Hartford, some of whose work can be seen at the Connecticut Historical Society, Bryant obtained a patent (#131,148) for a celestial indicator in 1872. Essentially a planetarium within an armillary sphere, this demonstrated such astronomical phenomena as the orbital motion of the planets, precession, and nutation [the latter being a periodic variation in the inclination of the axis of a rotating object]."

Examples can also be found at the National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Institute.

Warner, D. J. Rittenhouse, Vol. 2, No. 1, p. 31; Bryant, Henry A Synopsis of the Elements of Astornomy, and a Description of the Celestial Indicator Hartford: 1872; 1872-1873 Illustrated Catalogue of School Merchandise. J.L. Hammett, Manufacturer, Publisher, Bookseller, Boston: 1872-1873, p. 74; Groce, George and David Wallace. Dictionary of Artists in America, 1564-1860 New Haven: 1957.

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