Tag Archives: geographical distribution

Alexi Baker on Instrument Makers

Alexi Baker published a short paper, “The London instrument trade, from Culpeper to Cole”, in the proceedings of the conference `Who Needs Scientific Instruments’ held October 20—22, 2005 at the Museum Boerhave in Leiden. Although she was concerned with the whole spectrum of scientific instrument makers, I just want to pick out a couple of comments she made about the mathematical ones. The conference proceedings were published with an accompanying CD giving the speakers slides, so you can see the maps she is referring to in the text. She gives a spatial distribution across London of the different kinds of instrument makers, noting the wide dispersion of the mathematical instrument makers:

The locations of the mathematical, philosophical and tri-class instrument trades also shifted westward [over time], with the mathematical instrument makers and sellers covering the most ground. Their core concentration extended from St. James and especially from Covent Garden east to the Royal Exchange and then reappeared in clusters in the Minories and near the Tower, with the northernmost point at Moorfields. The locations expanded in all directions and slightly to the south bank over time, before largely consolidating in the west, reflecting the economic range of the mathematical instrument trade from the higher end from St. James to the Royal Exchange, to the lower end on the periphery.[101]

I find her description interesting and reasoning compelling. Mathematical instruments spanned the spectrum from high-end productions for royalty and the massive, expensive, and extremely accurate instruments for observatories, down to the basic toolkit of every surveyor, navigator, and mathematician. Baker continues with a comparison of the philosophical instrument makers being more concentrated on their elite patrons in the west.

I also found her analysis of the wide spread of backgrounds (especially guild backgrounds) interesting.

Baker, A. ‘The London instrument trade, from Culpeper to Cole,’ in Bart Grob and Hans Hooijmaijers (eds.), ‘Who Needs Scientific Instruments: Conference on scientific instruments and their users 20-22 October 2005’ (Leiden, 2006), 99-105.

See Also:

Campbell on Mathematical Instrument Makers