A globe is a three-dimensional scale model of planet Earth represented on a sphere where, sometimes, the topography of the surface is shown (obviously exaggerated because, depending on the scale, it would be difficult to see). The circumference of the planet is approximately 40 million meters.
The oldest of those that remain is the Erdapfel by Martin Behaim, completed in 1494 and whose cartography became immediately obsolete, since in March of the previous year Columbus had returned from his trip with news of the new transoceanic lands.
Over the past five and a half centuries, globes of all sizes and materials have been built: wood, paper, metal and, lately, thermoplastic. They are usually mounted on a base that supports an axis with an inclination angle of 23.5 degrees that passes through the poles, thus allowing the rotation of the sphere. Here we will see the ones that are considered as the largest globes in the world, some even capable of rotation.
Globe of Gottorf
Starting in chronological order we find the Globe of Gottorf, built between 1654 and 1664 for Frederick III, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp. It was designed by the German geographer Adam Olearius, although he could not complete the work, being finished by Andreas Bösch.
It is 3.1 meters in diameter and rotates by means of a hydraulic system. On the outside it shows a map of the Earth, while on the inside it shows a map of constellations. Through a gate you can access the interior and thus contemplate a simulation of the movement of the stars.
Peter the Great of Russia took it in 1717 to the Kunstkamera, the first museum in the country, and it was practically destroyed during a fire in 1747.
Using the original frame, Elizabeth I had it rebuilt. Today there is also a steel replica in Gottorf Castle, Germany.
In 1935 the Mapparium was built at the Mary Baker Eddy Library of the Christian Science Monitor in Boston, USA.
It is a leaded glass sphere with a diameter of 9.1 meters installed in a three-story high room.
Inside the sphere a footbridge allows visitors to contemplate the interior, which is where the cartography is represented by a concave mirror image, so that the continents and countries look the same as if they were seen from the outside.
The idea was to show the world with the correct geographical relationship of some territories with respect to others. And in that sense it is one of the most precise globes.
Babson World Globe
We have already mentioned Roger Babson and his foundation, which was investigating how to avoid gravity. In 1919 he created Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, today one of the most prestigious in the world in the field of entrepreneurship, and there he ordered the construction of the globe that bears his name in 1955.
It weighs 25 tons and is 8.5 meters in diameter, and had the capacity to rotate both on its axis and on its base, simulating the passage from day to night as well as the seasons, by means of an electrical system.
It was the largest rotating globe in the world until 1988. Its restoration began in 2018 and it was relocated to the campus in May 2019, with its rotating functions restored after more than half a century of damage.
Unisphere was conceived as a central element for the 1964 world’s fair in New York. It is a large metal structure representing planet Earth, located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in the New York City borough of Queens.
Donated by the United States Steel Corporation, it is a stainless steel globe with a diameter of 37 meters and a weight of 320 tons, making it the largest in the world. It has appeared in several movies such as Men in Black or Iron Man 2.
Globe of Peace
In the spring of 1988, the Babson Globe ceded its place as the world’s largest globe to the new Globe of Peace built in the Italian town of Apecchio, in the municipality of Pesaro.
Created by Orfeo Bartolucci, who built it alone paying for it from his savings, it is 10 meters in diameter and weighs 17 tons. As it is located outdoors, it has a protective layer of glass reinforced plastic.
The cartography is outside, but inside it has a capacity for 600 people who can contemplate descriptive tables and flags of all the countries of the world.
In 1998 the Globe of Peace was surpassed as the world’s largest rotating globe by Eartha, which is also considered the largest three-dimensional Earth-scale replica in existence.
6,000 lightweight aluminum tubes were used in its construction to form a structure on which the 792 pieces that make up the globe were placed.
It has a diameter of 12.50 meters and a weight of two and a half tons. Each millimeter of surface on Eartha represents one kilometer on Earth.
It is located in a glass pavilion at the headquarters of GPS DeLorme in Maine, USA. It can be seen in Google Maps.
This article was first published on our Spanish Edition on May 11, 2019. Puedes leer la versión en español en Los globos terráqueos más grandes del mundo