Barometer (detail), made by Jesse Ramsden

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Postcard of Barometer (detail), made by Jesse Ramsden.
© National Museums Scotland

Barometer (detail), made by Jesse Ramsden

This photograph shows a detail of the signature on a domestic stick barometer made by Jesse Ramsden in London around 1780. The signature along the top of the register plate reads: 'Ramsden / London'.

Jesse Ramsden (1731-1800) was the pre-eminent precision instrument maker of his day, renowned not just in London where he had learned his craft, but throughout the Western world, where astronomical observatories were kitted out with instruments from his workshop. Unusually, his workshop was run along industrial lines, with particular workmen specialising in particular skills, a division of labour which occurred much later in the rest of the trade.

Barometers formed a very minor part of Ramsden's business output, although Goodison mentions that George III bought two barometers and a thermometer from him in 1771 at a cost of £10 16s 0d, but there is no indication of their form on the invoice. Ramsden was responsible for two scientific improvements to the barometer: one was the use of an ivory pointer above the cistern to mark a scale zero as later suggested by Fortin; the second was an attempt to get a better reading from the curved surface on the top of the mercury column.

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Online ID: 000-180-000-965-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0504: National Museums Scotland Part 2
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  
Date: Around 1780
  • For domestic barometers by Ramsden, see Goodison, N. English barometers 1680-1860. Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1977, pp 222-225. 
  • For Ramsden, see Chapman, Allan. Scientific Instruments and Industrial Innovation: the Achievement of Jesse Ramsden. In: R.G.W. Anderson et al (eds.). Making Instruments Count. Aldershot, 1993, pp 418-430. 
  • McConnell, A. From Craft Workshop to Big Business - the London Scientific Instrument Trade's Response to Increasing Demand. London Journal 19 (1994), pp 36-53. 
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