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Weights & Measures at Melbourne Observatory
Image: Metric mass measures (c. 1865), Troughton & Simms
Source: Museum Victoria
From its inception the Melbourne Observatory had sets of standard weights and measures, which had been tested in Britain against the Imperial standards. These included the primary standard yard and pound for the Colony of Victoria. Other standards of weight and measure in the colony could be compared to these primary standards.
The measures were kept in the basement to reduce the effects of changes in temperature, but even so, special calculations had to be made to allow for the expansion and contraction of the metal in the standard yard. The standard yard was set up in a machine fitted with microscopes, so that exact comparisons could be made of two measures. In 1876 a permanent chain standard was erected in the Observatory grounds, to enable the ready testing of surveyor's and engineer's chain lengths.
A Weights & Measures Act was passed in Victoria in 1862, establishing local inspectors throughout the colony. By the 1870s, each local council and shire in Victoria held a set of standards that were used to test the scales, weights and measures used by factories and shops. Every ten years the councils' standards would themselves need to be rechecked against the Victorian standards.
This checking was done by the Victorian Customs Department in the 19th century, but with the transfer of responsibility for customs to the Federal Government in 1901, the weights and measures function was retained by the Victorian Government and shifted to the Melbourne Observatory. In 1904, a new building was erected at the south end of the Great Melbourne Telescope House, and the weights and measures and testing equipment installed on slate and granite benches. Because the large room had large whirling apparatus for testing air meters, it was always known as the Whirling Room.
When the Melbourne Observatory closed in 1944, the Weights and Measures Branch was formed to continue this area of the Observatory's work, and this branch remained at the Observatory site until 1995.
Proctor, S.J. (1983). Weights and Measures in Victoria: A History and Survey, Glen Waverley: S.J. Proctor.
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Transit telescope with 8 inch aperture; 9 foot focal length, made by Troughton & Simms, London in 1883 and installed at Melbourne Observatory in July 1884. The telescope was ordered by ...From: London, United Kingdom Images: 1
Standard brass yard, serial no. 3252, made by W. & T. Avery Ltd, 1915. Used as a standard yard at Melbourne Observatory. 1 yard is approximately 91cm.From: Birmingham, United Kingdom Images: 10
A simple Thomson type quadrant electrometer. Used at Melbourne Observatory. An electrometer measures electrical charge. The basic quadrant electrometer was developed by Lord Kelvin (S ...
Thomson type quadrant electrometer, with replenisher and auxiliary electrometer, circa 1900. Used at Melbourne Observatory. An electrometer measures electrical charge. The basic quadr ...
Artificial horizon, made by Troughton & Simms, London. Used at both Williamstown Observatory and Melbourne Observatory, and for Geodetic Survey of Victoria. The artificial horizon was ...From: London, United Kingdom Images: 1
Artifical horizon used at Melbourne Observatory, and also in Geodetic Survey of Victoria. The artificial horizon was used, especially in field observations, to establish the elevation ...
Bourdon pressure gauge, scale graduated in lbs. per square inch. 1 psi is approximately 6.9 kPa.From: Melbourne, Australia Images: 1
Gray-Milne Seismograph, designed by Thomas Gray and John Milne in Tokyo and made by James White in Glasgow, No. 5, 1887. A seismograph measures earth tremors. This seismograph was pu ...From: Glasgow, United Kingdom Images: 2
Theodolite, 13 inch horizontal circle and 9 inch vertical circle, by Ertel & Sohn, Munich. Horizontal circle is graduated to 5 minutes and vertical circle to 15 minutes. It is likely t ...From: Munich, Germany Images: 9