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History of Planetariums
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The first Zeiss planetarium, 1923The Spitz A-1 planetarium
Left: The first Zeiss planetarium, 1923; Right: The Spitz A-1 planetarium

Planetarium History


Star Theatre cover  Star Theatre: The Story of the Planetarium
William Firebrace
Reaktion Books, December 2017 
Marche book cover Theaters of Time and Space: American Planetaria, 1930-1970
Jordan D. Marche II
Rutgers University Press, 2005
King book cover Geared to the Stars: The Evolution of Planetariums, Orreries, and Astronomical Clocks
Henry C. King, in collaboration with John R. Millburn
University of Toronto Press, 1978


Internet sources:

Planetariums - Wikipedia article, a bit dated in terms of dome size and seating capacity (which change as new facilities are constructed), but historical information is sound. See also the Timeline of Planetariums.

The Planetarium Projector and Science Museum, Big Bear Lake, California


"A Fifty Year Anniversary of a Two Thousand Year Dream (The History of the Planetarium)"
by Mark Chartrand, Planetarian, Vol. 2, No. 3, September 1973

"Armand Spitz - Seller of Stars" by Brent P. Abbatantuono, Planetarian, Vol. 321, No. 1, March 1995

"The Magic of the Atwood Sphere" by Jean-Michel Faidit and Marvin Bolt, Planetarian, Vol. 42, No. 2, June 2013

"Who was Armand Spitz?" by Verne (Spitz) Rice and Joyce Towne, Planetarian, Vol. 42, No. 4, December 2013

"The Missing Planet" by William Firebrace, AA Files, Vol 66, Summer 2013, pp 126-44. History of the London Planetarium with overview of planetarium origins and history; includes Tussauds waxworks. Courtesy Architectural Association, London;

"Tracing paths of history: Rudolf Straubel, Walter Bauersfeld, and the projection planetarium" by Peter Volz

  • Part IPlanetarian, Vol. 42, No. 4, December 2013
  • Part IIPlanetarian, Vol. 43, No. 1, March 2014

Historical Videos:

From Paolo Amoroso (, Istituto Luce is an Italian documentary, movie and newsreel production institute founded in 1924 by Mussolini. They made available online newsreel of potential interest to planetarians:

There are a few more, mostly of authorities visiting the planetarium of Rome. Audio commentary is in Italian but there's not much a planetarium professional can't understand from the images.

Additional historical films (many thanks to Andreas Scholl for providing the links):

Planetarium Berlin, 1926 (English title) (German title)

Adler Planetarium Chicago, 1932

Griffith Observatory Planetarium Los Angeles, 1938

Fels Planetarium in Philadelphia (first 35 seconds)

Recent notable planetarium histories:

When ingenuity was king: Seymour Planetarium celebrates 75th anniversary by Richard Sanderson, Vol. 42, No. 3, September 2013 - The Seymour Planetarium at the Springfield Science Museum, Springfield, Massachussets

The first stars of San Francisco by Benjamin Mendelsohn, Morrison planetarium drawingVol. 42, No. 1, March 2013 - The Morrison Planearium at the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, California

Left: Russell Porter's original sketch of the proposed design of the Morrison Planetarium star projector, drawn on hotel stationery in 1948. Courtesy of Bing Quock, photo by Heather Yager.

Eise Eisinga: He reached for the starry heavens and gave the world a planetarium by Chris Janssen, Vol. 40, No. 4, December 2011 - The Royal Eise Eising Planetarium in Franeker, Netherlands

A payment in planetariums by Alex Cherman, Vol. 40, No. 4, December 2011 - How six Zeiss planetarium projectors started the planetarium age in Brazil

The history and current state of school-associated planetariums in Pennsylvania by Robb Webb and Kathleen Fadigan, Vol. 40, No. 3, September 2011 - The State of Pennsylvania has more planetariums built with federal funds during the Sputnik era than any other state. This article examines why, and how the few who remain have survived.

India: 40 planetariums, 3.3 million square kilometers by Piyush Pandey, Vol. 40, No. 1, March 2011 - A review of the state of the planetariums in India.

St. Petersburg Planetarium celebrates 50 years by Anastasia Baskakova, Vol. 38, No. 2, June 2009 - St. Petersburg Planetarium, Sankt Peterburg, Russia

The evolution of the fulldome planetarium by Tobias Wiethoff, Vol. 37, No. 2, June 2008

The planetariums in Taiwan by Chilong Lin, Vol. 36, No. 1, March 2007 - An overview of the planetariums in Taiwan

Planetariums in France by Jean-Michel Faidit, Vol. 35, No. 3, September 2006 - An overview of the planetariums in France


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