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Thread: World's Oldest Micrometer - 1776! Who made this thing??

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    machinethinking's Tools

    World's Oldest Micrometer - 1776! Who made this thing??

    I've spent a couple of years obsessed with what might be the world's oldest micrometer - allegedly made by James Watt himself around 1776! However, there is a lot of mystery around this object and even the Science Museum London can't say for sure who made it. On a recent trip to London I was extremely honored to meet up with Ben Russell, the curator of Mechanical Engineering at the Science Museum, and we actually got to take it apart in their lab to see if we could get a better idea of who made this thing!

    What do you think? Who made this? When does it date to? What tools did the person who made this have access to? Are those period correct for the time it was supposedly made?


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    bruce.desertrat's Avatar
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    bruce.desertrat's Tools
    LOL, It's This Old Tony and Clickspring up to their time travel tricks again!

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    even if it is Watt's micrometer, I'm not convinced it's the world's oldest, perhaps just the first graduated in meters. Consider the small devices discovered in shipwrecks, a multimeter of some kind measuring time comes to mind Antikythera. It may well be such machines were made with a file, a good eye, and a sensitive touch for flush, but I prefer to think there was measurement and recording, though the recordings (logs) may never be found.
    It's important to recognize the skill of our antecedents, though they had no access to the materials we have. Consider the Mayan stone culture, stone age man, not only were they societally sophisticated, they were conversant in the physical sciences. For example, understood acid-base chemistry without benefit of Prof. Arrhenius. At the very least the Mayans made concotions of rubber with different saps of green plants to affect the properties of rubber; that is, they used acidic juices and basic juices to chemically engineer rubber. Now that's pretty smart.

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    bruce.desertrat's Tools
    "It's important to recognize the skill of our antecedents, though they had no access to the materials we have."

    I agree; that's why i find the most fascinating parts of Clicksprings' Antikythera reconstruction the side trips into ancient Greek possible-technology, like his examination of file-making and his dividing tool, made with a straight edge and compass.

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    I love old machinery and also the history of machines. If anyone is interested the book 'Tools for the Job' is a good read. I've just put it in my Dropbox as I could not up;oad here. You can download here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/z5qcw45y26...Rolt-.pdf?dl=0

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    Bony's Tools
    There is a very interesting book by Simon Winchester published only a few months back called The Perfectionists which provides a history of how precision engineers created the modern world. That explains how and why the micrometer was created, if a bit sketchy on whether Watt developed or perfected it.

    The book is well worth a read. Hardback ISBN 978-0-06-265255-3 published by HarperCollins in the US.


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