A Philosopher Giving a Lecture on the Orrery

Queen's House Part Closures

Visitor Notice: On Thursday 14 and Friday 15 November, the Orangery of the Queen's House will be closed to the public. The rest of the house, including the iconic Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I, will be open as usual.

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Queen's House

This famous image by Wright of Derby encapsulates how astronomy - studying the stars - became a social activity in the 18th century.

A domestic setting provides the location for a lecture on the movement of the stars and planets. The grand orrery at the centre allows the Newtonian universe to be explained by placing a candle at the centre in place of the Sun. But the candle also provides striking illumination for the surrounding figures.

It's noteworthy that women and children are present at the lecture, as astronomy became seen as a socially acceptable subject, and one that ‘polite’ gentleman and ladies should be schooled in. The Newtonian universe also provided the model for the kind of enlightened constitutional government on which the British prided themselves, in which government revolved around the monarch, and the family around the father, in the same mould as the planets rotated around the Sun.

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