William Roy’s standard scale, 1742

John Bird
Jonathan Sisson

42-inch standard scale marked with a standard yard, made by Jonathan Sisson and divided in 1742 by John Bird, both based in the Strand, London. The scale was owned by surveyor General William Roy and used by him whilst conducting measurements of a baseline at Hounslow Heath in 1784.

William Roy led the Anglo-French project to determine by triangulation the relative positions of the Paris and Greenwich observatories. The fist step was the accurate measurement of a baseline; Hounslow Heath was the location selected by Roy.

Accuracy was crucial for this project, as even tiny errors would multiply when measurements spread across the country. Before beginning his measurements in 1784, surveyor William Roy ensured that his scale corresponded with the standard yard held at the Royal Society by comparing them carefully using a microscope. His investigations showed that the scales match exactly. He used the scale, which has a standard yard marked on it, to confirm the lengths of wooden rods used to verify an initial measurement of the baseline with a surveying chain.

On display

Science Museum: Science City

If you are visiting to see this object, please contact us in advance to make sure that it will be on display.


Weighing & Measuring
Object Number:
1931-988 Pt1
Box: 30 mm x 1125 mm x 40 mm, 0.66 kg
linear measure standard
Board of Trade

Cite this page


We encourage the use and reuse of our collection data.

Data in the title, made, maker and details fields are released under Creative Commons Zero

Descriptions and all other text content are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence

Using our data


Download catalogue entry as json

View manifest in IIIF viewer

Add to Animal Crossing Art Generator

Download manifest IIIF

Our records are constantly being enhanced and improved, but please note that we cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information shown on this website.