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Short docudrama traces life of 18th century Franeker curator Eisinga

Frisian built phenomenal planetarium


Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

FRANEKER, the Netherlands - A new, 27-minute documentary shot by Dutch director Anton Stoelwinder pays hommage to Eise Esinga, an 18th century amateur astronomer who built a working planetarium in his home in this Frisian university town. ‘Eise Eisinga, the phenomenon of Franeker’ recently had its premier showing in his city.

The docudrama - actors play Eisinga and some of the main characters in his life - follows the events in a didactic fashion, touching rapidly on many of the highlights in the man’s life (1744-1828) and work. The film primarily is aimed at Frisian elementary and high school students and soon will be available on DVD.

Born in nearby Dronrijp, Eisinga studied at the Franeker university which he later served as curator. After graduation, Eisinga went to work as a wool comber, the profession of his father, but also kept studying his subjects, such as astronomy and mathematics. In 1774, Eisinga began to build a planetarium, which he finished seven years later. The planetarium still is in excellent working condition today and draws numerous visitors to the city each year. In the 1780s, he was forced to flee, a potential prosecution target of the Stadtholder, to return only in 1796 when the Patriots were in control. Eisinga’s fame grew and shortly before his death, the Planetarium was acquired by the government and later donated to the municipality of Franeker.

Stoelwinder earlier made well-received documentaries on such Frisian subjects as Skűtsjesilen, missionary Boniface and the Steam Pump at Lemmer.

The university, the second to be instituted in the Netherlands, was founded in 1585 but shut down in 1811 on orders of the French, who then occupied the country.