From craft to industry: London's scientific instrument makers' workshops, 1780-1820

Plan of Jesse Ramsden workshop in Piccadilly


This study complements the Skilled Workforce project, though dealing with a later period. It investigates the business practices of London scientific instrument makers at a time when they were being challenged to make novel and large apparatus, principally for astronomical observatories all over Europe. This sometimes necessitated building special workshops to house the equipment; at the same time the normal flow of day to day business had to be maintained. Four firms are being examined in particular detail: John Bird (1709-76), Jesse Ramsden (1735-1800), John and Edward Troughton (1739-1807, 1756-1835) and the Gilbert family.

See also the related project 'Optical glass and the scientific instrument trade in London before 1750' and also 'The growth of the skilled workforce in London 1500-1750' and 'Image database of the skilled workforce in early modern London'.



Anita McConnell, R.B. Bate of the Poultry 1782-1847: the life and times of a scientific instrument maker (Scientific Instrument Society, Monograph No. 1, Pershore, 1993); Anita McConnell 'From craft workshop to big business - the London scientific instrument trade's response to increasing demand, 1750-1820', The London Journal, 19 no. 1 (1994), 36-53; Anita McConnell, Jesse Ramsden (1735-1800): London's leading scientific instrument maker (Ashgate, 2007), 318pp.



CMH Annual Report 1992-3

Project details

Researcher: Anita McConnell, B.Sc., Ph.D., F.R.S.A., F.R.G.S., F.R.Met.S.
Funded by: The Leverhulme Trust (1 January-31 December 1993)