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probably made in Edinburgh

Postcard of Clinometer.
© National Museums Scotland


A clinometer is a surveying instrument used for measuring the angle of inclination. This example was made in 1869, probably by E. Emslie Sang (1805-90), a scientific instrument maker based in Edinburgh. It was intended for measuring the angles of the slope of the Great Pyramid by Charles Piazzi Smyth.

By placing the entire instrument on a sloping surface - the exterior of the Great Pyramid, or the inner passages - and setting the bubble level so that it was horizontal, the angle of slope could be read off the circular silvered scale.

This is one of the instruments specially-commissioned by Charles Piazzi Smyth in connection with his voyage to Egypt where he and his wife Jessica spent four months in 1865 measuring the dimensions of the Great Pyramid at Gizeh in an attempt to discover whether there was a unit of length used by the constructors.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-190-004-749-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1986.L.2.38
Date: 1869
Material: Inscription: Clinometer of Precision
What: Clinometer / box
Who: E. Emslie Sang, Edinburgh (Maker)
Where: Scotland, Midlothian, Edinburgh
Description: Clinometer of precision, by E. Emslie Sang of Edinburgh, 1869
  • C. Piazzi Smyth, Life and Work at the Great Pyramid, 3 vols., Edinburgh, 1867. See also the discussion of the item being used in Edinburgh Astronomical Observations, vol 13 (18**). 
  • C. Piazzi Smyth, Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid, 4th edition London, 1880, esp. Part II, History and the Interior of the Great Pyramid, pp 99-224. 
  • H.A. Bruck and M.T. Bruck, The Peripatetic Astronomer: the Life of Charles Piazzi Smyth. Bristol, Adam Hilger, 1988, esp. chs. 6 and 7, pp 95-134; esp. pp.118-120. 
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