Davis Heliotellus

This is a vertical mechanical model of the inner solar system (Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Moon). The inscription reads: “. . . Patentee. . . ber 24th., 1867 and October 27th . . .” The Earth is marked “J. DAVIS GLOBE.”
John Davis (1821-1903) of Pittsburgh obtained several patents for railroad car brakes, tanning apparatus, and other devices. He was also interested in science education, serving as professor of mathematics and astronomy at Allegheny City College, principal of the Academy of Science, and president of the Polytechnic Institute of Western Pennsylvania. Around 1867 he introduced three astronomical demonstration devices: the Planetellus (sun with planets and moons out to Neptune), the Heliotellus (Sun with planets and moons out to Earth), and the Lunatellus (Sun, Earth, and Moon). The Heliotellus won a first prize at the American Institute fair of 1869.
Ref.: John Davis Guide for Using Davis’ New Geographical and Astronomical Apparatus (Pittsburgh, 1870).
D. J. Warner, “The Geography of Heaven and Earth,” Rittenhouse 2 (1988): 58-59.
Currently not on view
Object Name
planetarium, Heliotellus
date made
ca 1870
Davis, John
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
cast iron (overall material)
overall: 31 1/2 in; 80.01 cm
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Measuring & Mapping
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Western Reserve University

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