History of Surveying and Measurement

History of Surveying and Measurement

The topics of surveying and measurement cover a wide variety of component subjects. For the purposes of these pages "surveying" is that definition of the word which refers to the collection of data relating to the recording of surface and near surface features of the earth and generally their representation as a map, plan or digital model of the those features. By "measurement" is meant those instruments and methods of measurement that relate in some way to the execution of surveying as defined above.

Thus "surveying" can relate to anything from one-house plots of land to determination of the size and shape of the earth. "Measurement" can relate to anything from the use of pacing or a tape measure to the use of electro-magnetic distance measuring equipment or satellite ranging techniques.

It must be said however that in its present fledgling state the Institution tends to concentrate on those aspects pertaining to the higher levels of surveying (generally called topographic and geodetic surveying).  It would however welcome contributions on all aspects.

The term "topographic surveying" implies the collection of information relating to large areas of land, for subsequent use in the compilation of some form of map of the countryside.  "Geodetic surveying" is the determination of the size and shape of the earth together with the provision of triangulation networks over it to which the topographic detail can be related.

As such "Surveying and Measurement" can encompass aspects of mathematics, astronomy, geography, physics, mechanics, metrology, statistics, geophysics and other scientific disciplines.  Within these disciplines it includes reading devices - such as verniers, micrometers and circles; standard units of measurement and their inter-relationship;  temperature devices and scales;  trigonometric and other tables;  logarithms;  angle and distance measuring devices from earliest times; calculating devices; barometric devices and use of their readings; the determination of gravity values; the determination and depiction of elevation and all the other sundry instruments and methods associated with these areas of interest. In addition to the practical construction and operation of the instruments the mathematical theories related to all the instruments and their use are of prime importance.

The lives and work of personalities involved in any of the above items and of their publications is central to the Institution's interests.

Frontispiece of Trigonometria, Plana & Sphaerica. B Cavalierie, 1643. Courtesy Jan de Graeve.