History of Surveying and Measurement


Research is very much of an individual nature rather than by the Institution as a whole. Among those we are aware of are:

  • Bjorn Harsson (Norway) is researching the Struve arc points in Northern Norway.
  • Vitali Kaptjug (Russia) is researching the conversions between units of measure on the Struve arc.
  • Jim Smith (UK) (deceased) focussed his work on the history of geodesy. He was also interested in the connection between the Struve geodetic arc and that of the 30th meridian in Africa. He welcomed input from any interested readers.  He was also interested in the arc measurements of c1735 made in Peru and Lapland.
  • Jane Insley (UK) has been looking into the locations and condition of the 3 ft diameter theodolites.
  • Mike Cooper (UK) (deceased) was researching the work of Robert Hooke and has recently obtained a Doctorate on the topic.
  • Jan de Graeve (Belgium) continues to take a passionate interest in sundials.
  • Thomas Glatthard (Switzerland) is researching into the locations of illustrations in literature that pertain to surveying.
  • Harold Nelson (USA) has a continuing interest in the relocation of early USA baselines and corner stones together with the early days of transatlantic telegraph.
  • Erik TobĂ© (Sweden) has for a long while researched the individuals who worked on the Lapland geodetic arc of 1736-7.
  • Tomasz Zaciewicz (S Africa) has a close interest in all aspects of the arc of the 30th meridian in Africa.
  • John Brock (Australia). Research and compilation of surveying as depicted in Hollywood style movies, TV shows and advertisements.

Map from Bornholm, Denmark, 1818. Courtesy Kort & Matrikelstyrelsen, Denmark, KMS and Den danske Landinspektørforening DdL.

Latest research projects

"The States of a Nation" - the history of the politics and surveys of the
Australian State borders

About the Author:

David John Taylor is an Account Manager within the Business Development Services Branch, Land and Property Information NSW, a Government Business Enterprise within the NSW Department of Information Technology and Management.
He completed the Cartography (Fulltime) Certificate in 1973, the Surveying Certificate in 1974 and the Associate Diploma in Cartography in 1975 - all from Sydney Technical College. He went on to undertake further tertiary studies after a break from studying (1975-1986), completing the Associate Diploma in Information Services (Computer and Communication Technologies) in 1989 - graduating from Capricornia Institute of Advanced Education, Rockhampton, Queensland in 1990.
He went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree (Communication, Tourist and Recreational Planning) from the University of Central Queensland, graduating in 1993 (now Central Queensland University). He is an active Member of the Mapping Sciences Institute, Australia (MMSIA) and an Associate Member of the Institute of Public Administration Australia Inc. (AMIPAA).


A search of all literature relating to Australian history revealed that very little information is recorded in encyclopedias, etc about the history of the politics and surveys of the Australian state borders. The last comprehensive document attempting to record this aspect of surveying history was done in 1895 - Campbell, W. D., 1895, "An Account of the Boundaries of Australasian Colonies" in "The Surveyor", Vol VIII, No. 1 January 7, 1895.

This research is to be seen as an attempt to fill a void in Australian history and hopefully serve as a research document for students, educators or anyone else interested in learning how The States of A Nation came into existence.

The research document commences with Captain Phillip's Commission in 1788, which defined New South Wales and its dependencies as: ".. appoint you the said Arthur Phillip to be our Captain-General and Governor-in-chief in and over our territory called New South Wales extending from the Northern Cape or extremity called Cape York in the latitude of ten degrees thirty-seven minutes south to the southern extremity of the said territory of New South Wales or South Cape in the latitude of forty-three degrees thirty-nine minutes south and of all the country inland westward as far as the one hundred and thirty-fifth degree of east longitude reckoning from the meridian of Greenwich including all islands adjacent in the Pacific Ocean within the latitudes aforesaid of ten degrees thirty-seven minutes south and forty-three degrees thirty-nine minutes south.."

The document then traces the history of the politics and surveys of all Australian state borders since this Commission to present day. It mentions the politicians and surveyors and the work they have done. The surveyors are the "quiet achievers" as they undertook most of the early surveys of these borders at the time when the explorers were gaining kudos for their explorations. The politicians laid the rules for the placement of these borders.

The document concludes with an investigation of the New States movement within Australia and how this affects the placement of state borders. This section includes:

  • Riverina agitation
  • New England agitation
  • Agitation in Queensland
  • "Princeland" succession movement in Victoria/South Australia
  • "Albert"
  • Hutt River Province (Western Australia)

Enquiries on any aspect of above material can be addressed to:
David Taylor
PO Box 1716,
Bathurst NSW 2795
Email: David.Taylor@ditm.nsw.gov.au