Notes'H.Kater. inv.t' written on the numbered card of the compass body signifies that this compass was the original prototype devised by Henry Kater in 1811.
As an ensign, Kater was stationed at Madras on the east coast of India in 1799. He assisted Lieutenant William Lambton in conducting a land survey between the Malabar coast and the coast of Coromandel. "While engaged in the Indian survey, Henry Kater worked out the principle for his first invention, Kater's Compass. This had a card which revolved with the compass and a vertical horsehair was set to show distant objects and thus show their bearing. This was the type of instrument which John Oxley, the Australian explorer, was using a few years later in 1813, and which he described in his journal as "a most valuable instrument, combining all the advantages of the circumferentor, without being so liable to be damaged and put out of order by carriage".
Henry Katers 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 this compass was one of them. He donated most of these objects, including this compass, to Sydney University and Sydney Observatory.
This compass was presented to Sydney Observatory on 17 May, 1874, by Henry Herman Kater, son of Captain Henry Kater.
Macmillan, D. S., The Kater family, 1750-1965, The Kater family?, Sydney, 1966
Holland, J., 'Pioneer of Precision; Captain Henry Kater, FRS', http://www.usyd.edu.au/museums/whatson/exhibitions/kater1.shtml
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
Forwarded to H. M. Secretary of State by Despatch, No. 141, 1847, Federation and Meteorology, http://www.austehc.unimelb.edu.au/fam/1541.html