100-year-old globe from Spain may have been an early example of interactive education

 

A century-old globe filled with encyclopaedic illustrations and a working model of the Solar System may have been an early example of interactive education, experts believe.

The colourful 10-inch wide object, housed at Cambridge University's Whipple Museum, has been shrouded in mystery until now.

When, where and why it was made remained an unsolved puzzle.

Now a new investigation points to the globe being made in Spain in the first decade of the 20th century as an educational tool for children.

On its surface the globe has a conventional map of the world, showing the continents and oceans.

Inside there are exquisite hand-painted illustrations and texts depicting the history of life on Earth.

The globe also contains a mini-planetarium that re-enacts the revolution of the planets around the Sun at the turn of a cog.

Cambridge University science historian Seb Falk, who led research into the globe's providence, said: "Making a globe like this would have been technically difficult: apart from the construction of the globe from brass, wood and pasteboard, the inside of the sphere is hand-covered with encyclopaedic information designed expressly for the object and printed using the latest chromolithographic technology.

"All in all, it's rather surprising that such an object was made in Spain, a country where there was no previous tradition of globe making."

His detective work included examining national borders depicted on the globe, as well as the information illustrated within it such as names of animals and numbers of planetary moons.

One clue was the use of Spanish word accents that were lost in the first decade of the 20th century.

The evidence pointed towards the globe having been manufactured in Spain around 1907 - an important time in the country's history.

"The 19th century had seen civil wars and coups with numerous failed attempts at economic reform and industrialisation," Mr Falk explained.

"A vociferous press argued that Spain's problems resulted from inadequacies in the education system."

As a result, educational practices in Spain began moving away from passive learning towards flexible, small-group education which incorporated tactile experiences and experimentation. The "encyglobedia" would have been ideal for this form of teaching.

"Although what one might ordinarily want to do with a globe - spin it - is almost impossible, it is clearly intended to be touched," said Mr Falk.

"The planetarium is sized to fit a child's hand, with instructions designed to be read aloud: 'if we place the little lunar globe in a straight line between the earth and the sun, the moon will block the Sun's light.. we thus have a solar eclipse'."

On one of the planets, a child appears to have written the word "solo", meaning alone or single.

International commerce expanded greatly in the late 19th century and there was a flourishing European trade in scientific instruments and educational products, said Mr Falk.

"Recent developments in printing technology were vital to the production of such a beautiful, brightly coloured toy," he added.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before