Geodetic transit theodolite, made by Troughton & Simms for James Ludovic Lindsay

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made in London

Postcard of Geodetic transit theodolite, made by Troughton & Simms for James Ludovic Lindsay.
© National Museums Scotland

Geodetic transit theodolite, made by Troughton & Simms for James Ludovic Lindsay

This large theodolite, made by the renowned London instrument makers Troughton & Simms, was made for the wealthy amateur astronomer James Ludovic Lindsay, later 26th Earl of Crawford and 9th Earl of Balcarres (1847-1913). In the early 1870s his private observatory at Dun Echt in Aberdeenshire was fitted out with first class instruments. At the same time, he was planning a visit to the island of Mauritius to view the 1874 Transit of Venus across the Sun's disc.

This instrument, with its finely engraved gold scale, was used on the Mauritius expedition both as a geodetic transit and as a portable altazimuth. Its measurements enabled the observing site's co-ordinates to be determined very accurately.

The day of the Transit, 9 December, started cloudy, but later cleared to allow a range of observations. However, under the very difficult conditions of viewing it proved impossible to determine the precise moment when the planet's limb (or edge) coincided with the Sun's disc. This disappointing result was found to be the case with all the other expeditions, and it effectively put an end to the serious use of Venus transits for the determination of solar distance.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-001-002-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.2004.560.1;T.2004.560.2
What: Box
Theodolite / part
Who: Troughton and Simms (Maker)
Where: London, England, EUROPE
Description: 12" geodetic theodolite in a box, by Troughton and Simms, London
  • Lindsay, Lord and David Gill. On Lord Lindsay's Preparations for Observations of the Transit of Venus. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 33 (1873), pp 34-43. 
  • Macdonald, Angus and A.D. Morrison-Low. The Heavenly Library: Treasures from the Royal Observatory's Crawford Collection. Edinburgh, 1994, p 60. 
  • [Lord Lindsay]. Lord Lindsay's Mauritius Expedition, 1874: Division II. Dun Echt Observatory Publications 3 (1885). 
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