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H9891 Telescope, 3 3/4 inch transit telescope, brass / glass / wood, made by Edward Troughton, London, England, 1800-1821, used by Parramatta Observatory, Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia. Click to enlarge.

A transit telescope made by Edward Troughton

Made by Troughton, Edward in London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom, Europe, 1800-1821.
There are two main types of telescopes. One uses a curved reflecting mirror to capture an image of celestial bodies the other uses a refracting lens to gather the light.

This telescope is one of the instruments which arrived in Australia with Governor Brisbane in late 1821. In the following year it was installed in the observatory built next to Government House at Parramatta. The telescope was made by Edward Troughton, one of the most respected instrument makers of the day, and was originally used to observe the right ascension of the stars.

After Brisbane left in 1825 the instrument was brought by the New South Wales State Government and was for a time used for recording transits. James Dunlop was appointed as astronomer at the observatory in 1831 and upon his return to Australia Dunlop had found the equipment in a bad state of repair. Nevertheless he commenced observations around the middle of January 1832 using the Troughton transit and mural instruments. In 1835 a new transit telescope made by Jones was delivered to the observatory which replaced the Troughton transit. The Jones telescope however proved too difficult for Dunlop to manage on his own and instead he used the Troughton mural circle (H9893) for most of his observations. The instrument was put into storage after the Parramatta observatory was closed down in 1847 and remained so until the new Sydney Observatory was built above the Rocks.

The opening of the new observatory in 1858 saw many of the original Brisbane instruments taken out of storage. Given their age it is not surprising that the new Government Astronomer Rev. W. Scott found many of them, like this telescope, could be not be used. Instead he favoured the Jones transit circle (now lost), the equatorial made by Banks (H9888) and the long case clock made by Hardy (H9889).

In 1858 and 1859 Scott did use the telescope while he was waiting for the return of the Jones Transit which had been sent to England for repairs by Governor Denison in 1855. Significantly it was used to make the first determinations of longitude of Sydney Observatory an essential step in the surveying of New South Wales. However Scott was not happy with its performance as he felt it had problems with its pivots and axis.

Even with its faults, and the subsequent loss of the front lens, this instrument remains of national significance due to its pioneering role in Australian science and its association with Australia's earliest astronomers. It is also significant for its association with early nineteenth century astronomical instruments and their makers.

Orchiston, W., 'Mission Impossible: William Scott and the First Sydney Observatory Directorship', cited in Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, Volume 1,Part 1, 1998 pp: 21-43
Lomb, N., 'Earnshaw's Excellent Timekeepers', in Davison, G., Webber, K., 'Yesterday's Tomorrows; the Powerhouse Museum and its precursors 1880-2005', Powerhouse Publishing, 2005
Scott, W., Astronomical Observations made at the The Sydney Observatory in the Year 1860, Thomas Richard, Government Printer, Sydney, 1861
Scott, W., Astronomical Observations made at the The Sydney Observatory in the Year 1859, Thomas Richard, Government Printer, Sydney, 1860
Haynes, Raymond, Haynes, Roslynn, Malin, David, McGee, Richard, Explorers of the Southern Sky, Cambridge University Press, 1996
Forwarded to H. M. Secretary of State by Despatch, No. 141, 1847, Federation and Meteorology,

Geoff Barker, August, 2007


Object No.


Object Statement

Telescope, 3 3/4 inch transit telescope, brass / glass / wood, made by Edward Troughton, London, England, 1800-1821, used by Parramatta Observatory, Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia

Physical Description

A 3 3/4 inch transit telescope consisting of a brass tube with an eyepiece in one end. A brass wheel to one side of the eyepiece features two graduated vernier scales. The telescope sits in a horizontal brass support or trunnion that allows the telescope to swivel up and down when held in a wooden frame.


Text engraved on the vernier scale reads 'Troughton London'.



1730 mm


687 mm


302 mm



The telescope was made between 1800 and 1821 by Edward Troughton in London, England.

Cooke, Troughton & Simms
In 1782 John Troughton purchased Benjamin Cole's shop in Fleet Street, London enabling him to sell his own signed products. His instrument making business supported several dynasties of Troughton's before becoming Troughton and Simms and later still Cooke Troughton & Simms. This firm was one of the most well respected firms of instrument makers of the 1800s.

While the firm enjoyed some early success the business really expanded once John's brother Edward Troughton (1756-1835) took over the business in 1807. Edward and his brother John were both designers and manufacturers of instruments and the quality of their work won them contracts with the leading Government bodies of the time. These included The Royal Society, the Greenwich Royal observatory, the Board of Longitude, the Board of Ordnance and the East India Company.

One of the main factors in the success of the business was the use of a dividing engine which could speed up the labourious process of marking the small divisions of measurement necessary for scientific instruments. This machine was based on that designed by Jesse Ramsden (1735-1800) which had won a prize from the British Board of Longitude in 1775. As a result of this the Board of Longitude was allowed to instruct Ramsden to allow up to ten other instrument makers to copy his machine. One of these was John Troughton and the new machines established both Ramsden's and Troughton's reputations. The dividing engine speeded up both accuracy and production and rather than spending 12 weeks, six days a week and eight hours a day graduating two meridian circles this machine enabled the same job to be completed in around 10 hours.

The workshop produced a broad range of instruments from large telescopes and theodolites through to smaller mathematical instruments. Before 1835 most of the optics appear to have been supplied by Dollond as Edward Troughton was reputed to be colour blind. It is also important to note that from the early years the precision engineering of castings and turnings of their instruments were mainly outsourced to Maudslay Field & Donkin or Ransome's & May.

One of Edward Troughton's apprentice's William Simms was taken into partnership in 1826 and after Edward died in 1835 Simms became the manager of the establishment and company became Troughton & Simms. Under Simms the company continued to expand and produced instruments for Britain and her colonies as well as for markets in Europe and America. When William Simms died in 1860 the estate was worth around £80,000. The company was next managed by William Simms (junior) and his cousin James who carried the firm into the industrial age.

The 1860s they moved the company from Fleet St to two acres of land at Charlton on Woolwich Road and by1866 the factory employed 61 men and 20 boys. For the 1874 transit Troughton & Simms made only five transits and four portable azimuths but did refurbish some older telescopes lent for the occasion. Telescopes and transits of the period were often hybrids with the structure ordered from Grubb's or Troughton & Simms with lenses from Cooke.

However by 1887 the company was able to produce all the parts necessary for their instrument and the company employed nearly 200 people. James Simms died in 1915 and the company was turned into a limited liability company by his two sons William and James. Things however were not so easy for the two sons and in 1922 the business was brought out by their rival T. Cooke & Sons becoming Cooke, Troughton & Simms.

Todd, David, P., Stars and Telescopes, Sampson Low, Marston, and Co., 1900
Chaldecott, J., 'Printed Ephemera of Some Nineteenth Century Instrument Makers', in Blondel, C., Parot, F., Turner, A., Williams, M., (eds), Studies in the History of Scientific Instruments, Rogers Turner Books, London, 1989
King, H., C., The History of the Telescope, Dover Publications, New York, 1955
McConnell, A., Instrument Makers to the World; a History of Cooke, Troughton and Simms, William Sessions, York, England, 1992



The telescope was brought to Australia by Governor Brisbane in 1821 and used at Parramatta Observatory, Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia


Credit Line

Source unknown

Acquisition Date

3 June 1983

Cite this Object


A transit telescope made by Edward Troughton 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 11 August 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=A transit telescope made by Edward Troughton |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=11 August 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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