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H10254 Aneroid barometer, metal / ceramic / glass, made by J H Steward Limited, Strand and Cornhill, London, England, 1885-1895. Click to enlarge.

Aneroid barometer

Australia's weather was a mystery to its early colonists, and instruments similar to this barometer were used to measure atmospheric pressure and make weather forecasts for Sydney and its surrounds.

In exploring Australia, the supply, transport, maintenance, and repair of scientific instruments posed many difficulties. No instrument was more at hazard than the mercurial barometer. A meter long glass tube filled with mercury, even when encased in the metal outer tube, was very vulnerable on long inland journeys. The introduction of the aneroid barometer was a great success as Casella describes in 1871 "This ingenious and elegant instrument is now regarded as almost indispensable to all who take interest in the weather, whilst, to travellers in particular, it presents advantages which hitherto they could not obtain. Before the introduction of the aneroid, limited indeed were the means of those, who, moving from place to place, desired in their progress to take reliable notice of meteorological phenomena, whilst the measurements of heights by any convenient or simple and portable arrangement was quite out of the question. Not only are all these difficulties entirely overcome by this instrument, but the older fragile form of a barometer used at sea is almost entirely superseded". Although the aneroid barometer was not as precise as a mercurial barometer, it allowed early colonists to take meteorological measurements while exploring the Australian countryside.

The ability to forecast the weather was an important feature in the pioneering of Australia. This barometer is also significant for its association with nineteenth century meteorological instruments and instrument makers.

Julian Holland, Australian Exploration and the Introduction of the Aneroid Barometer, Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society, No 61 (June 1999), pp 24-26.
L. Casella, An illustrated and descriptive catalogue of surveying, philosophical, mathematical, optical, photographic, and standard meteorological instruments, D Lane, London, 1871

Written by Erika Dicker, Assistant Curator, November 2007.


Object No.


Object Statement

Aneroid barometer, metal / ceramic / glass, made by J H Steward Limited, Strand and Cornhill, London, England, 1885-1895

Physical Description

An aneroid barometer consisting of a mechanism enclosed by a metal encasing with a decorative ceramic surround and a flat bevelled glass cover. The barometer has two pointers one manually operated and the other influenced by atmospheric pressure. The circular ceramic surround depicts a decorative raised design featuring pink, white and yellow flowers and foliage on a gold background. A brass chain is attached through a ring fixed to the top of the barometer.



69 mm


304 mm


275 mm



J.H. Steward Ltd was established in London, England in 1856. J.H. Steward was the head optician of the company and had businesses at 406 and 66 Strand and 54 Cornhill in London. In the mid 1800s he became the optician to Her Majesty's Government and the National Rifle, and National Artillery Associations.

This barometer is highly ornamental. Ornate barometers became popular in the 1870s, and were being designed to hang on the walls of halls, libraries, yachts, and saloons.

There was rising protest against mass produced furniture in dull and unimaginative designs and therefore a high demand of intricately designed objects like this barometer.

Thomas Nicholas, Annals and antiquities of the counties and county families of Wales, Oxford University Press, 1872.
Edwin Banfield, Barometers: Aneroid and Barographs, Baros Books, England, 1985



Humans have always relied on predicting the weather for comfort, food, and general well-being. As human intelligence evolved, more sophisticated means were used to forecast weather patterns. Instrumental meteorological observations began in the early 17th century with the invention of the thermometer by Galileo Galilei, shortly after 1600.

The invention of the barometer is credited to Evangelista Torricelli, in 1643 . He experimented with mercury in a vacuum, which allowed him to measure atmospheric pressure. The changes in atmospheric pressure were indicative of future changes in the weather, thus the barometer became an invaluable tool in weather forecasting.

The aneroid barometer was developed by Lucien Vidie in the 1840s. 'Aneroid' means 'without liquid' and instead of using mercury trapped in a glass tube, the instrument uses the expansion or contraction of a flexible metal box to measure atmospheric pressure. Aneroid barometers first became available in Australian in 1849 and were quickly preferred for use in exploring, over the delicate mercury barometers.

N. Goodison, English Barometers 1680-1860-A history of domestic barometers and their makers, Cassell Ltd, London, 1969.
W.E. Knowles Middleton, The History of the Barometer, Baltimore, 1964, pp. 398-409


Credit Line

Purchased 1984

Acquisition Date

25 June 1984

Cite this Object


Aneroid barometer 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 24 September 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Aneroid barometer |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=24 September 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}