Magnetic dip circle

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made in London

Postcard of Magnetic dip circle.
© National Museums Scotland

Magnetic dip circle

This instrument is a portable dip-circle for measuring the inclination of the Earth's magnetic field. It was made by Henry Barrow (1790-1870), a specialist instrument maker, who had been partner and then successor to Thomas Robinson, whose precision balances had used low-friction agate bearings, as do dip-cirlces.

The magnetic needle of this instrument, mounted on agate bearings (and thus very sensitive) moves in a vertical plane, measuring the variation in the Earth's magnetic field which is different over time. The needle is enclosed in a glazed wooden box, which can rotate on a lower graduated circle. Its circular scale is set outside the glazed box, and is set with microscopes so that very precise readings can be taken. It is engraved below the silvered scale: 'Henry Barrow & Co. 26 Oxendon St. London.' and 'No 33'.

Twelve dip-circles of this type were made by Henry Barrow for the Kew Observatory in about 1855. This particular instrument, Barrow's No. 33, was adopted as the Observatory standard instrument from 1860 until the magnetic observations ceased there in 1924.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-000-999-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  T.1983.289
Date: Around 1855
c. 1855
What: Dip circle
Subject: 5. CARTOGRAPHY, Surveying (Departmental Classification)
Who: Henry Barrow (Possible maker)
Henry Barrow, London (Maker)
Where: England, London
Description: Dip circle by Henry Barrow
  • For dip circles, see McConnell, Anita. Gophysics and Geomagnetism: Catalogue of the Science Museum Collection. London, 1986, pp 29-31. 
  • For Henry Barrow, see Stock, John T. Henry Barrow, Instrument Maker. Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society No 8 (1986), pp 11-12. 
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