Dividing Engine

Dividing engine, made by Jesse Ramsden, London, 1775. This machine permitted the automatic and highly accurate division of a circle into degrees and fractions of degrees of arc. Invented by Englishman Jesse Ramsden in the 1770s, the machine ultimately led to mass production of precision octants and sextants and gave British manufacturers dominance in the field of marine instruments for decades.

Ramsden’s invention was so valuable to the nation’s maritime interests that he received a share of the Longitude Prize.

Caption:
Made by Jesse Ramsden in 1775, this machine permitted the automatic and highly accurate division of a circle into fractions of degrees of arc. The machine led to mass production of precision octants and sextants.
Type: Artifact
Image Date: 2012
Credit: National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Origin: National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Creator: Jaclyn Nash
JN2012-1403
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Made by Jesse Ramsden in 1775, this machine permitted the automatic and highly accurate division of a circle into fractions of degrees of arc. The machine led to mass production of precision octants and sextants.