Queen Elizabeth I's Astrolabe

Contributed by Museum of the History of Science

Queen Elizabeth I’s Astrolabe

The History of Science Museum in Oxford has one of the largest collections of astrolabes in the world and this is just one fine example.

The astrolabe was a mathematical instrument which was used to carry out astronomical measurements, to calculate the positions of the sun and the stars, and to tell the time. This one was made in 1559 and belonged to Queen Elizabeth I. It may have been a gift from her favourite courtier, Sir Robert Dudley. Its size and magnificent appearance show how such mathematical instruments were prized as symbols of learning and prestige during the Renaissance.

It was made by a man called Thomas Gemini, an accomplished instrument maker who immigrated from the Low Countries and arrived in London to set up his business in the 1540s. In the seventeenth-century, the instrument was given to the Savilian Professor of Astronomy at the University of Oxford.

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