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Image 40-inch standard-measure line bar, early 19th century

TLF ID M000312

This is a triangular solid-metal 40-inch (1.02-m) standard-measure line bar, made from metal and wood and stored in a polished timber case with a hinged lid. It has an associated stand (not shown). The line bar was used by Captain Henry Kater between 1820 and 1835 and by the Sydney Observatory, New South Wales, between 1873 and 1900.

Educational details

Educational value
  • In the early 19th century, the inconsistency and inaccuracy in measurement standards between Britain and the Australian colonies plagued the import and export industries. Taxes on the importation of goods were heavily affected by inaccuracies in measurement. Neither Britain nor the Australian colonies had a uniform standard of measurement - weights and lengths were measured differently.
  • This standard-measure line bar was used by Captain Henry Kater in the adjustment of the imperial standard measures of Britain. Kater was an English physicist and inventor. He worked alongside Sir Joseph Banks and Thomas Young to experiment with measures and weights and to devise methods of taking accurate measurements. Their work significantly influenced the Weights and Measures Act of 1824, which introduced new British imperial standards for measurement.
  • Henry Kater's son, Henry Herman Kater, arrived in Australia in 1839. He had inherited many of his father's possessions after the death of his brother Edward, and he donated most of them to the University of Sydney and to Sydney Observatory.
  • With the 1824 Act, Britain streamlined its measurement standards to the use of just three main terms: an imperial yard, the imperial troy pound and the gallon. Brass standards were made to represent these measures and replicas were distributed to Australia. Kater worked closely with London's most significant scientific-instrument makers to produce copies of the new imperial standard, which he had helped to dictate.
  • The Sydney Observatory has a long history of assisting Australia to keep accurate time and measurement. This standard bar remains of national significance due to its pioneering role in Australian and British science and its association with Australia's earliest surveyors, scientists and astronomers.

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: Powerhouse Museum
  • Organization: Powerhouse Museum
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: NSW, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Name: Unidentified
  • Organization: Unidentified
  • Description: author
  • Publisher
  • Name: Powerhouse Museum
  • Organization: Powerhouse Museum
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: NSW, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Generic
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Curriculum Corporation and Trustees of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences 2009 (except where otherwise indicated). You may view, display, print out, copy and modify this material for non-commercial educational purposes provided you retain all acknowledgements associated with the material.