Octagonal wooden telescope

1772-1773 in United Kingdom

Octagonal wooden telescope with slot down one side and moveable eyepice, unsigned, United Kingdom, made by James Watt, 1772.

Surveying projects were important to James Watt as he made the transition from being a scientific instrument maker to being an engineer capable of working on large projects such as steam engines/. He was engaged to work on schemes for a number of canals, and he took the opportunity to continue to innovate with the tools and instruments at his disposal. This telescope was to be used to measure distance with a pair of painted discs which also survive in his workshop (inv. no. 1924-792/1848). His assistant placed one disc at the bottom of a pole, and moved the other until it lined up with the upper of two cross hairs in the telescope eyepiece. Watt used them whilst surveying Scotland’s Great Glen in 1773 and could measure half a mile to an accuracy of within a yard using this method.


James Watt's Garret Workshop
Object Number:
glass and wood
Major J.M. Gibson-Watt