The Armillary sphere sculpture which sits at Cussonia Court, was gifted to the university by Emitus Professor John Lovering and his wife Kerry. The name derives from the Roman Latin word armillae which means brass ring and it is designed to demonstrate the celestial spheres and their motions.
In the west, the armillary sphere was invented by the Greek astronomer Eratosthenes in approximately 225 BCE; however, it was created by the Chinese astronomers Shi Shen and Gan De in the 4thcentury BCE. Although the Greek Armillary sphere was originally used as a teaching instrument, during the Era of Discovery in Europe they often took on a decorative function and became a sculptural feature, as is seen now at the university.
This sphere is comprised of three rings. The wide band represents the equator and has numbers inscribed on it to indicate the hours of the day when used as a sundial. Perpendicular to this is the elliptical plane. Along a north and south plane is the meridian circle, which can be used to articulate latitude and longitude.Often there will be a ball in the centre which originally represented Earth but now signifies the placement of the sun at the centre of our solar system. This undermines the belief that pre-modern people thought the earth was flat and demonstrates the sophisticated understanding of astronomy people have held since Antiquity.
In European visual culture, the Armillary sphere is typically associated with human wisdom as it represents the intelligence of those who are capable of contemplating and questioning what has been deemed as a universal truth.