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Why's It Called an “Orrery”?

For decades I, and I suspect many other folks whose fondest childhood memories include pressing the button on the clockwork orrery at the science museum until their fingers turned blue waiting for all the planets to line up—just another half-hour, Mom!—believed the word orrery to be etymologically derived from orbit: after all, that's what it demonstrates! In fact, mechanical models of the solar system, invented c. 1700 by George Graham, have been called orreries ever since the English instrument maker John Rowley named a copy he made of Graham's machine “The Orrery” in honour of Charles Boyle, Earl of Orrery.

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by John Walker