Joshua Kirby had a deep and abiding interest in mathematical instruments, especially those connected with architectural and perspective drawing, and he had close relationships with several of the instrument makers in London, including John Bennet and George Adams. He designed several instruments and, indeed, wrote a book on a sector he designed. I have been digging into the world of the London instruments and instrument makers, which was going through something of a golden period when Kirby was involved, and I am giving a talk on the subject at the Canadian Mathematical Society Winter Meeting in Ottawa on December 7. Here’s my abstract:
DUNCAN MELVILLE, St. Lawrence University
Dividing to rule: Precision mathematical instruments in mid-18th century England
Development of mathematical sciences in the 18th century, especially in the interwoven strands of astronomy, navigation, and surveying, was driven by measurements of ever-increasing exactness. The mathematical instrument makers who designed and reﬁned instruments of exquisite precision had to be experts in both theory and practice. In this talk I will explain some of the problems faced, and techniques used, by the leading practitioners of the day to produce such accurate measurements.