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probably made in London

Postcard of Theodolite.
© National Museums Scotland


A theodolite is a surveying instrument for measuring horizontal and vertical angles. This brass example was made around 1750, probably by Benjamin Cole (1695-1766), a scientific instrument maker based in London.

The theodolite has a removable fixed-focus telescope over a vertical scale and, in the centre, a magnetic compass inside a horizontal scale. The outer circle is signed 'COLE maker at the Orrery in Fleet Street LONDON'.

The instrument can be set up in two forms. With the vertical arc and telescope in position it can measure both vertical and horizontal angles. When these are replaced by a pair of sights it forms the simple instrument, measuring horizontal angles.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-190-004-260-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1966.L.2
Date: Around 1750
c. 1750
What: Theodolite, alt-azimuth
Subject: 5. CARTOGRAPHY, Surveying (Departmental Classification)
Who: Benjamin Cole (Maker)
Where: England, London
Description: Alt-azimuth theodolite, by Benjamin Cole, London, c. 1750
  • For a similar example, see Bennett, J.A. The Divided Circle: A history of instruments for astronomy, navigation and surveying. Oxford: 1987. pp 148-9 
  • For Cole, see Clifton, Gloria, Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers 1550-1851. London: 1995, p 61 
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