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H9908 Barometer, fortin-type barometer, mercury / wood / metal / glass, made by Newman and Sons, London, England, 1833-1855, used at Sydney Observatory, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1858-1900. Click to enlarge.

Fortin type barometer

This barometer was used at Sydney Observatory in the late 1800s. The observatory used barometers at its Sydney location and at weather stations throughout country New South Wales to measure atmospheric pressure and, hence, track storm systems . Data from the barometer measurements were collated and analysed by the observatory's astronomers. These observations allowed the astronomers to predict storm systems and movement in Sydney and to the west of the Blue Mountains.

Australia's weather was a mystery to its early colonists, and instruments such as this barometer were used to measure atmospheric pressure and make weather forecasts for Sydney and its surrounds. The first published scientific study of Australian weather was written by William Stanley Jevons, in 1859. Jevons used a barometer, like this one, to observe the rise and fall in atmospheric pressure and translate this into weather forecast rules.

Barometers were also used in the early explorations of inland Australia. Explorers carried their meter long glass barometers filled with mercury, to measure atmospheric pressure at different locations. They were delicate instruments and even when encased in a metal outer tube, they were vulnerable on long inland journeys. These delicate mercury barometers were soon replaced with aneroid barometers, which were a more robust instrument for travelling.

The ability to forecast the weather was an important feature of the observatory's work. This barometer 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 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.
H. C. Russell, Scientific papers, Notes on some recent barometric disturbances, 1877 [read before the Royal Society of NSW, 5 December 1877]
Neville Nicholls, William Stanley Jevons and the climate of Australia, Australian Meteorological Magazine, 47, 285-293, December 1998

Written by Erika Dicker, Assistant Curator, November 2007.


Object No.


Object Statement

Barometer, fortin-type barometer, mercury / wood / metal / glass, made by Newman and Sons, London, England, 1833-1855, used at Sydney Observatory, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1858-1900

Physical Description

A fortin-type barometer which has a central glass channel, ending in a cylindrical solid base with glass windows. The barometer has a graduated scale at upper right from '27' to '31' and a mercury thermometer inset at the lower left, above the base cylinder with scaling in degrees Celsius. The barometer is mounted on a polished timber base with a rounded top. The mount is wall-mountable, with metal fittings to support barometer.



1310 mm


200 mm


130 mm



Made by Newman & Son, 122 Regent St, London, England between 1855 and 1900.

In 1816, John Newman opened his business at 7-8 Lisle St, Leicester Square, London, England, later relocating to 122 Regent St, London, in 1827.

Newman was one of the England's leading 19th century barometer makers. He made the Royal Society's standard barometer in 1822 and in 1833, he devised a portable iron cistern to help make mercury barometers more hardy and secure when being transported and used in rough conditions. Newman also made the standard and portable barometers for the Ross Antarctic expedition in 1839. His meteorological barometers were installed, and used, throughout the British Empire in the 1800s.

John Newman, 'On a new method of constructing a portable barometer', Report of the 3rd meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, London, 1834, pp 417-418.
N. Goodison, English Barometers 1680-1860, A history of domestic barometers and their makers, Cassell Ltd, London, 1969. p. 313



The barometer was used at Sydney Observatory, Watson Road, Observatory Hill, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia between 1858 and 1900.

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.

This barometer was used to record meteorological observations at Sydney Observatory for a period in the late 1800s.

N. Goodison, English Barometers 1680-1860-A history of domestic barometers and their makers, Cassell Ltd, London, 1969.


Credit Line

Ex Sydney Observatory, 1983

Acquisition Date

29 June 1983

Cite this Object


Fortin type barometer 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 5 March 2021, <https://ma.as/258880>


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