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Surveying Like A Victorian

 

Britain in the 19th century was leading the world in scientific and engineering advancements. Rapid industrialization had both required and allowed for the development of new engineering and surveying equipment.  Although it had earlier precedents the theodolite became a modern reliable instrument in the late 18th century and was further developed and mass produced in the 19th century, and are still used regularly today by engineers, surveyors and archaeologists.

Theodolites are sophisticated instruments used for measuring angles which allows for very accurate calculations of distances to be made. By using geometric principles you can discover the height and distances of objects by calculating angles against an object of known height. Many a surveyor and archaeologists has spent hours spying through the viewer and taking detailed notes whilst their companion is out in a cold muddy field or baking hot desert with levelling staff (basically a big measuring stick) allowing the calculations to be made.

This particular theodolite, Lot 688 in our sale on the 8th of April 2018, was produced by William Stanley. With true Victorian vigour William set about to revolutionise British scientific equipment after his father made a passing remark about the low quality of British made drawing instruments of the time.  William opened a shop on Great Turnstile Street in Holborn in the 1850’s and the business went from strength to strength for half a century until he stepped away from the business early in the 20th century, though the company continued for nearly another century before finally being wound up in 1999.

Lot 688
Lot 688
Lot 688

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