The Ebert spectrometer, named for its inventor, the 19th‐century German spectroscopist Hermann Ebert, emerged from obscurity after the Second World War to play a significant role in the exploration of the solar system. I had a part in its resurrection, and the Ebert spectrometer has played a dominant role in my scientific career. Therefore I've taken the trouble to look into its history. The evolution of this instrument, now a century old, was curiously haphazard and fraught with mistakes. I have attempted here to put these events into chronological, and somewhat autobiographical, perspective.
Hermann Ebert's 19th‐century spectrometer was reinvented and thus revived from undeserved obscurity to pioneer the study of planetary atmospheres in the age of space flight. Its history is a comedy of errors.