Highlights of the Adler Planetarium: Archives

Adler Planetarium

The Adler Planetarium's archives document the history of the first planetarium in the Western Hemisphere since its inception. They also cover important aspects of the history of astronomy and its tools.

Where do our numbers come from?
The Arabic numerals we use today were introduced into the European university system through a work titled "Algorismus", by the thirteenth-century scholar Johannes de Sacrobosco. This manuscript from the same period includes parts of "Algorismus", and also excerpts from Sacrobosco’s "Tractatus de Sphaera", a text widely used over the following centuries to teach astronomy. 
A Paper Computer
This exquisite sixteenth-century manuscript contains movable paper devices, generally called “volvelles”, which illustrate the old Earth-centered theories of planetary motion. Volvelles functioned as analog paper computers. They could be used to predict the positions of the planets in the sky, and to perform other calculations.   
Adler Ticket no. 1
This was the first admission ticket ever sold at the opening day of the Adler Planetarium, the first institution of its kind in the Western hemisphere. It opened its doors to the public on May 12, 1930. This ticket was later returned to the Adler as a gift from its buyer, a Chicago-based gentleman named Victor Swanson.
The first modern planetarium of the Western hemisphere takes shape! 
This photograph shows the Adler Planetarium’s main dome under construction around 1929-1930. The dome would house a Zeiss II projector for the ensuing decades, and bring millions of visitors closer to the sky. The original projector was replaced with a newer machine in the late 1960s. 
Planetarium Visionaries
From left to right, this photograph (dated 1929) shows Philip Fox, Adler Planetarium’s first director; Max Adler, the Planetarium’s benefactor; and Oscar von Miller, the founder of the Deutsches Museum in Munich, where the first projection planetarium opened to the public in 1925. Inspired by the latter, Fox and Adler shaped the first modern planetarium in the Western hemisphere. 
A Day at the Planetarium
During its first seven years of activity (1930-1937), the Adler Planetarium recorded a total of 3.4 million visitors. Attendance was propelled not only by the aura of novelty surrounding the Zeiss projector, but also by the Chicago Century of Progress Exposition of 1933-34, in which the Adler Planetarium featured as a major attraction. 
Adler by Night
The building of the Adler Planetarium was designed by the architect Ernest A. Grunsfeld, Jr.. The project garnered him the 1931 gold medal of the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. This image shows the building in its early days, with a fountain added for the Century of Progress Exposition of 1933-1934, which has now long been removed. 
Heavenly Machines
Likely a composite image, this photograph shows Adler guests in awe of the night sky as recreated by the Planetarium’s original Zeiss II projector. Orion, one of the most conspicuous constellations of the winter sky in the Northern hemisphere, can be clearly seen to the right of the projector.
Commanding the Heavens
This photograph shows Maude Bennot (1892-1982) operating the Adler Planetarium's original Zeiss II projector. Bennot served as Acting Director between 1937 and 1945, becoming the first woman in the world to ever lead a planetarium. 
Satellite Trackers
This archival photograph shows some members of the Chicago Junior Astronomical Society peering into the skies outside the Adler’s building, in the context of Operation Moonwatch. This satellite-tracking program was launched in the late 1950s, when the Cold War and the Space Race were taking hold. It involved a large network of amateur observers. 
A Planetarium Inside a Planetarium
In 1913, the geographer Wallace W. Atwood (1872-1949) presented what is now known as the Atwood Sphere to the Chicago Academy of Sciences. The device recreates the appearance of the night sky as seen from Chicago. It was relocated to the Adler in the mid-1990s.  Visitors can thus experience the first two planetariums of the United States in the same place!
Credits: Story

Thank you to the staff of the Adler Planetarium, and to photographer Steve Pitkin, for their assistance in creating these images of our collection and this exhibition.

Visit us here: http://www.adlerplanetarium.org

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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