Jesse Ramsden was one of the most prominent manufacturers of scientific instruments in the latter half of the eighteenth century. To own a Ramsden instrument, be it one of his great theodolites or one of the many sextants and barometers produced at his London workshop, was to own not only an instrument of incredible accuracy and great practical use, but also a thing of beauty. In this, the first biography of Jesse Ramsden, Dr Anita McConnell reconstructs his life and career and presents us with a detailed account of the instrument trade in this period. By studying the life of one prominent instrument maker, the entire practice of the trade is illuminated, from the initial commission, the intricate planning and design, through the practicalities of production, delivery and, crucially, payment for the work. The book will naturally be of immeasurable interest to historians of science and scientific instruments but, as it also sheds light on the increasing commercialisation of the scientific trade on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution, should also interest social and economic historians of the eighteenth century.
Table of Contents
Contents: Preface; Foreword; Introduction; Early life; Entering trade; The dividing engines; 'At the sign of the golden spectacles': the Piccadilly workshop; Observatory instruments and expeditions, before 1786; Observatory instruments and expeditions, after 1786; A miscellany of instruments; Surveying and the great geodetic theodolites; Roy and Ramsden: dispute over his standard of work; Final years; Ramsden's will and probate; Sarah and John Ramsden; The craft inheritors at Piccadilly; Tales of a great man; Bibliography; Appendices; Index.
’Combining a wealth of technical detail with information on arguably the most important person in the history of angular measurement, this thoroughly researched volume is most welcome... McConnell's wide use of archival material will assist historians in several fields... Recommended.’ Choice ’Readers will likewise appreciate the great service to scholarship of this first full-length biography. Beautifully illustrated, skillfully researched, and lucidly written, McConnell's book is certainly worthy of its remarkable subject.’ EH.NET ’Anita McConnell promises a fresh account of one of the most admired instrument makers in the history of science, astronomy included. ... This promise is emphatically honoured: an extraordinary amount of work has gone into the making of this book and, while it is always possible for substantial primary material to come to light, it is very hard to see how otherwise the record of Ramsden's working life can be appreciably improved. ... We are greatly in the author's debt for the dedication to thoroughness, detail and accuracy that has produced a reliable account of Ramsden.’ Journal for the History of Astronomy ’The book has a strong scholarship and is a must-read reference to Ramsden and his time, one I will often go back to.’ Journal of British Studies ’The extensive and expertly chosen extracts from the original texts are a particular joy to read and are seamlessly integrated into the narrative, bringing vivid characterisation to the instrument trade of the period. Anita McConnell skilfully weaves together the documentary evidence to present a coherent picture of a virtuoso craftsman and inventor whose spectacular failure to meet delivery dates was the despair of astronomers across Europe, yet whose innovation and perfectionism ensured his reputation at the forefront of instrument builders. ... This well written book with its extensive bibliography will be a particularly valuable resource for all who have an in