Saturday, 3 March 2012

The Orrery

This is one of Fantasy Bob's favourite objects in the National Museums of Scotland.  He probably first stood before it when he was 7 and for many years he thought it was a representation of field placings and how the fielders would slowly move through the course of a match.  It is only recently that he has been brought to understand that it is a mechanical representation of the orbits of the planets around the sun, and of the moons around the planets.

It is known in the trade as an orrery - named after the 4th Earl of Orrery, Robert Boyle who was a patron of science in the early 18th century and commissioned the making of such a model of the solar system.  He had no interest in cricket or the science of field placing.

The model in the National Museums of Scotland is much more recent and was made in Munich in 1913.  Had FB's first thought been correct and it did represent field placings, it might have been drawn from the events in Scotland's 2 match tour of England in 1913 when they played Oxford University and Surrey.  The match against Surrey was lost by 7 wickets.  Scotland gained a reasonable first innings lead but in so doing angered Jack Hobbs by getting him out for 11 - he scored 150* in second innings.  They also lost against Oxford University by 34 runs.  The umpires in the match had the fantastic names of  Mr Daft and Mr Quelch.

Fulton's Orrery
There is another particularly fine Orrery in the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow. This was one of 3 made by Ayrshire shoemaker and self taught mathematician John Fulton. It took him 10 years to make between 1823 and 1833. Could Fulton's inspiration have come from the victory of the celebrated B's XI over the All England XI that year?  This was a distinct improvement on their performance in the 1810 fixture when they were dismissed for 6 in their second innings, still the lowest score of a completed innings. The B's were formed of players whose names began with B, but that year they could only muster 9 real B's so a couple of ringers made up the numbers. Had the team to rely on the B's alone, they would have been dismissed for 1, since the non-B players scored 5 of the 6.

In Armagh there is a human orrery where the positions of the planets are marked out by discs placed apart at intervals to represent 16 days in their orbits.  Now, this is like a set of fielding discs on the field of play and makes FB think that his original idea about orreries might not have been so far off the mark.

Fielding Circles in Armagh
Science in the enlightenment - you can't beat it.

1 comment:

  1. Some pretty designs alright. Doing the painting yourselves is more fun but a good place for ideas for more design is this site of, that I use to help with my wall decorations.
    You can browse for a painting like this The tree, by 20th century Czech artist, Frantisek Kupka, for example, , that can be ordered on line and delivered to you.