Theodolite, with case and carry bag, brass / glass / wood / leather, made by Cooke, Troughton and Simms, York, England, c. 1925, used by surveyor George Davison, Australia, c. 1925-1976
When George Emanuel Davison died in 1983, at the age of 94, he was the oldest Registered Surveyor in New South Wales. He purchased this theodolite some time in the late 1920s and used it for the rest of his surveying career. While the theodolite is not remarkable in its own right, being a standard instrument of the time, it is part of a collection of surveying equipment and an archive of papers and photographs that illustrate the working life of a surveyor across much of the twentieth century.
Born in 1889 at Arncliffe, Davison joined the NSW Lands Department in 1908 as a cadet surveyor, served articles with surveyors Alcock and Harnett, and qualified on 14 April 1914 (certificate 1222). He rejoined the Lands Department and worked there until March 1950. He continued to work as a freelance surveyor and did his last work in Kangaroo Valley on behalf of the Sydney Bush Walking Club when he was 88 years old.
During his time in the field with the Lands Department, George Davison usually lived under canvas and travelled by horseback. He would be away for months, and sometimes his wife would accompany him. Some of the photographs show the tent and their personal effects.
George worked in many areas of New South Wales including the areas around Hay and Wagga Wagga, the Snowy Mountains, Armidale, Grafton, Forbes and Condoblin. His topographic work in the Snowy Mountains was commended at the opening of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme. The engineers were very impressed at the accuracy of the maps produced from his measurements, which were done without the aid of stereometric equipment and aeroplanes.
The significance of this equipment lies primarily in its being a collection of tools and associated ephemera which provide a wonderful illustration of George Davison and the working life of a surveyor over a period of almost 70 years.
The theodolite is a standard model produced by the company Cooke Troughton and Simms. It must have been produced sometime after 1922 when T Cooke and Sons Ltd merged with Troughton and Simms Ltd. It would have been produced in one of the CTS factories in York, UK.
In 1782 John Troughton purchased Benjamin Cole's shop in Fleet Street, London, enabling him to sell his own signed products. His instrument making business supported several dynasties of Troughtons before becoming Troughton and Simms and later still Cooke Troughton & Simms. This was one of the most well respected firms of instrument makers of the 1800s.
While his brother enjoyed some early success, the business really expanded once Edward Troughton (1756-1835) took over the business in 1807. Edward and his brother John were both designers and manufacturers of instruments, and the quality of their work won them contracts with the leading Government bodies of the time. These included the Royal Society, the Greenwich Royal Observatory, the Board of Longitude, the Board of Ordnance and the East India Company.
One of the main factors in the success of the business was the use of a dividing engine which could speed up the laborious process of marking the small divisions of measurement necessary for scientific instruments. This machine was based on that designed by Jesse Ramsden (1735-1800) which had won a prize from the British Board of Longitude in 1775. As a result of this the Board of Longitude instructed Ramsden to allow up to ten other instrument makers to copy his machine. One of these was John Troughton, and the new machines established both Ramsden's and Troughton's reputations. The dividing engine sped up both accuracy and production: rather than spending 12 weeks, six days a week and eight hours a day graduating two meridian circles, this machine enabled the same job to be completed in around 10 hours.
The workshop produced a broad range of instruments from large telescopes and theodolites through to smaller mathematical instruments. Before 1835 most of the optics appear to have been supplied by Dollond as Edward Troughton was reputed to be colourblind. It is also important to note that from the early years the precision engineering of castings and turnings of their instruments were mainly outsourced to Maudslay Field & Donkin or Ransomes & May.
One of Edward Troughton's apprentices, William Simms, was taken into partnership in 1826, and after Edward died in 1835 Simms became the manager of the establishment and the company became Troughton & Simms. Under Simms the company continued to expand and produced instruments for Britain and its colonies as well as for markets in Europe and America. When William Simms died in 1860 the estate was worth around £80,000. The company was next managed by William Simms (junior) and his cousin James who carried the firm into the industrial age.
In the 1860s they moved the company from Fleet St to two acres of land at Charlton on Woolwich Road and by 1866 the factory employed 61 men and 20 boys. For the 1874 transit of Venus, Troughton & Simms made only five transits and four portable azimuths and refurbished some older telescopes loaned for the occasion. Telescopes and transits of the period they were often hybrids, with the structure ordered from Grubb or Troughton & Simms and the lenses from Cooke.
However by 1887 the company was able to produce all the parts necessary for its instruments and employed nearly 200 people. James Simms died in 1915, and the company was turned into a limited liability company by his two sons William and James. Things however were not so easy for the two sons and in 1922 the business was bought out by rival T Cooke & Sons, becoming Cooke, Troughton & Simms.
Todd, David, P., Stars and Telescopes, Sampson Low, Marston, and Co., 1900
Chaldecott, J., 'Printed Ephemera of Some Nineteenth Century Instrument Makers', in Blondel, C., Parot, F., Turner, A., Williams, M., (eds), Studies in the History of Scientific Instruments, Rogers Turner Books, London, 1989
King, H., C., The History of the Telescope, Dover Publications, New York, 1955
McConnell, A., Instrument Makers to the World: a History of Cooke, Troughton and Simms, William Sessions, York, England, 1992