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The astrolabe of Hipparchus is considered to be one of the best known of

the measuring instruments. It was developed sometime in 140 B.C., and further
improved by Ptolemy. The instrument had a metal circle with a pointer hinged at
its center and held by a ring at the top ,and a cross staff, a wooden rod about 1.25
meters long with an adjustable cross arm at right angles to it. The known length of
the arms of the cross staff allow distances and angels to be determined by
proportion. It was originally designed for determining the altitude of stars.

How to use Astrolabe (Measuring the
Altitude of Trees and Buildings)

To become familiar with how an astrolabe
works, practice measuring the altitude (angular
height) of trees or buildings. To make a proper
measurement, look at the top of the object
through the straw.

Have someone read the altitude in degrees
from the side of the astrolabe. The point where
the string crosses the scale is the proper

Practice using your astrolabe by measuring and
recording another tree or building of a different


The invention of the telescope in 1607 is accredited to Lippershey. In 1609,
Galileo constructed a refracting telescope for astronomical observation. However,
it was only when cross hairs for fixing the line of sight were introduced, that the
telescope was fixed in early surveying instrument.


The invention is credited to Young and Draper who worked independently
from each other sometime in 1850. Both men were able to put together in one
instrument the essential parts what has long been known as the universal
surveying instrument.


An early surveying instrument which was used to measure and lay off
angles, and establish lines of sight by employing sights

Plane Table

One of the oldest types of surveying instruments used in field mapping. It
consists of aboard attached to a tripod in such a way that it can be levelled or
rotated to any desired direction


The dioptra, which was perfected by Heron of Alexadria, was used in
leveling and formeasuring horizontal and vertical angles. It consists essential of a
copper tube supported ona standard and could be rotated in either a horizontal
or vertical plane. For measuringhorizontal angles, a flat circular disc with
graduations in degrees is used. An arm containingsighting apertures at either end
could be rotated to any desired position on the disc.

Roman Groma

The Roman surveyors used the groma instrument for aligning or sighting as an
points. It consisted basically of cross arms fixed at right angles and pivoted eccentrically upon
a vertical staff. Plumb lines were suspended from the ends of the arms. BY employing the
groma two lines at right angles to each other could be established on the ground where it is set up.


The Assyrians and Egyptians are believed to be the first users of libella. The
instrumenthad an A-frame with a plumb line suspended from its apex and was
used to determine the horizontal. Archaeologist are of the belief that the
horizontal foundations of the great pyramids of Egypt were probably defined by
this device.


The vernier is a short auxiliary scale placed alongside the graduated scale of
an instrument,by means of which fractional parts of the smallest or least division
of the main scale can be determined precisely without having to interpolate. It
was invented in 1631 by a Frenchmanname Pieere Vernier. Surveying instruments
employ either a direct or retrograde.


An intrument developed by the Greeks sometime in 130 B.C., and known to
be their mostfamous surveying instrument. The diopter was used for leveling,
laying off right angles, andfor measuring horizontal and vertical angles. Since the
telescope was not yet invented during the time the diopter was used, peep sights
were employed for sighting and in aligning the device.


The magnetic compass came into wide use during the 13th century for
determining thedirection of lines and in calculating angles between lines. It was
first introduced for use innavigation. The compass consists of a magnetized steel
needle mounted on a pivot at the center of a graduated circle. The needle
continues to point toward magnetic north and gives a reading which is dependent
upon the position of the graduated circle.

Gunter's Chain

The Gunter's Chain, which was invented by Sir Edmund Gunter in 1620, was
the forerunner of instruments used for taping distances. It is 66 ft long and
contains 100 links, so that the distances may be recorded in chains and in decimal
parts of the chain. Each part, called a link is 0.66ft long or 7.92 inches.


This instrument was designed for leveling work. It consisted of a horizontal
staright-edge about 6m long with supporting legs, and a groove 2.5 cm deep and
1.5 m long on top.Water is poured into groove and when the bar is leveled so that
stood evenly in the groove without spilling, a horizontal line is established.


The device for measuring time and meridian. It was first used by the
Chaldeans in about 4,000 B.C. It consisted of a slotted palm leaf through which to
sight and a bracket from whicha plumb bob was suspended. By sighting through
the slot and past the plumb bob string, a straight line could be projected.