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2017/51/41 Imperial half bushel measure, metal, made by James Blanch, Sydney, Colony of New South Wales (Australia), 1833. Click to enlarge.

Imperial half bushel measure

  • 1833
This imperial standard measure is part of a substantial collection of metrological instruments and literature which have been gleaned from Australia's leading centres of metrological research and administration. Collected over a long period of time, from the mid nineteenth-century to the late twentieth century, the collection qualifies as a comprehensive and, in part, a rare assemblage of metrological artefacts that served the determination of standards for the Colonial and modern State …


Object No.


Object Statement

Imperial half bushel measure, metal, made by James Blanch, Sydney, Colony of New South Wales (Australia), 1833

Physical Description

Imperial half bushel measure, metal, made by James Blanch, Sydney, Colony of New South Wales (Australia), 1833


Marked on front: number '7' / shield symbol / crown with V R stamped twice / crown / E R / S M. On back: J. Blanch / convict symbol / 1833



178 mm


480 mm


385 mm



  • 1833



In general, the term 'metrology' emerged in the nineteenth century, and it has been suggested that its first recorded appearance in English was as the title of an influential 1816 text by London accountant and mathematician Patrick Kelly (1756-1842). Universal standards, a central remit of the discipline, were aimed at the development of agreed standards for weights and measures in science and industry. However, at the beginning of the recognition for consensual uniformity in the early nineteenth century, such ideals were rarely achieved. Disputes raged about standards (and how to measure them) for time, lengths, capacity, electrical units, the English Imperial versus the French metric systems, and so on. Victorian England and Colonial Australia were awash with interpretations about reliable and agreed standards, and the construction of artefacts to accurately measure them.

Prior to the establishment of the Australian Federation in 1901, Weights and Measures legislation and administration were the responsibility of the Colonial Secretaries, Treasuries and, once established, State Governments and the Commonwealth. Each State formulated its own legislative framework for standards and maintained their own measurement systems, which, in both cases, were traceable back to Britain. At Federation, the Australian Constitution transferred responsibility for weights and measures from the State/Colonial authorities to the Commonwealth Government.

After Federation and throughout the twentieth century, Australia developed the institutions necessary to support the measurement and standard requirements of an advanced industrial society. In addition, the country made a significant contribution to international standards legislation and the science of measurement.

The provenance of the oldest metrological items in this collection may be traced back to their origins at the offices of the Colonial Treasury and Secretary of New South Wales. The detailed route by which the earliest material was located at the Lindfield facility is unknown, however, it is most likely the case that many of the items were removed from the old National Measurement Laboratory at Sydney University (est. 1938) when it closed in 1977 and were relocated to Lindfield. Other items were relocated to Lindfield from various State Government research facilities (e.g. Agriculture) and other related Government research laboratories. Some of the more recent items, for example, the weighing machines by Sartorius, were acquired by the National Measurement Laboratory once it was established at Lindfield and were used for various metrological research programs.

(The following references have been used in preparing this acquisition):

Ashworth, W.J. (1994). 'The Calculating Eye', British Journal for the History of Science. Vol. 27, pp. 409-441.

Athane, B. (2001). 'The History of the International Organization for Legal Metrology', OIML Bulletin, Vol. XL11, pp. 21-25.

Atkins, S.E. and Overall, W.H. (1881). Some Account of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers of the City of London. n.p.

Birch, J. (1988). The Australian National Measurement System. Bulletin International Organisation for Legal Metrology. Vol. 110, pp.6-14.

Brieux, A. (1900). Catalogue de l'exposition collective allemande d'instruments d'optique et de mecanique de precision. Berlin.

Broadbent, L. H. (1949). The Avery Business (1730-1918). W. & T. Avery Limited, Birmingham, England.

Brooks, R. (1988). 'Standard Screw Threads for Scientific Instruments', History and Technology, Vol. 5, pp. 59-76.

Cahn, R.W. (2005). 'An Unusual Nobel Prize', Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London. Vol. 59, pp.145-153.

Czichos, H. (1987). 'The Critical Role of Materials Metrology in Engineering', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Mathematical and Physical Sciences. Vol. 322, pp.361-372.

Findlay, M. 'Alfred Simpson (1805-1891)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol 6, Melbourne University Press, pp. 126-127.

Holland, J. (2000). 'James Blanch: Australia's First Metrologist'? The Australian Metrologist, No. 21, pp. 3-4.

Kater, H. (1826). 'An Account of the Construction and Adjustment of the New Standards of Weights and Measures for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Vol. 116, pp.1-52.

Kelly, P. (1816). Metrology: Or, an Exposition of Weights and Measures, Chiefly Those of Great Britain and France, Comprising Tables of Comparison, and Views of Various Standards, With an Appendix Containing a General View of the Bill for Establishing Uniformity of Weights and Measures, etc. London.

Lenzen, V.F. (1965). 'The Contributions of Charles S. Peirce to Metrology', Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. Vol. 109, pp. 29-46.

Lucas, R. B. (1885). 'On the British Standards', Transactions and Proceedings and Report of the Royal Society of South Australia. Vol. 1X, pp. 18-38.

Lucas, R. B. (1892). 'Unification of Standard of Weights and Measures [notice only], Report of the Fourth Meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, held at Hobart, Tasmania, in January, 1892. Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, Sydney, p. 261.

McConnell, A. (1993). R.B. Bate of the Poultry, 1782-1847: The Life and Times of a Scientific Instrument Maker. Scientific Instrument Society, London.

n.a. 'History of Measurement in Australia'; 'History of Metric Conversion', Australian Government (National Measurement Institute), [http:// - accessed 19/5/2010].

n.a. 'How Australia's Measurement System Works'; 'Australian Legal Units of Measurement'; 'Traceability'; 'First-Level Standards'; 'Second and Third-Level Standards'; Australian Government (National Measurement Institute) ['s Measure... - accessed 19/5/2010].

O'Connell, J. (1993). 'The Creation of Universality by the Circulation of Particulars', Social Studies of Science, Vol. 23, pp. 129-173.

Quinn, T. and Kovalevsky, J. (2005). The Development of Modern Metrology and Its Role Today', Philosophical Transactions: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. Vol. 363, pp.2307-2327.

Sartorius-Herbst and Bracht, K. (2006). Evolving from a University Mechanician to a Global Player: Sartorius Chronicle from 1870 to 2005. Sartorius AG, Gottingen, Germany.

Schaffer, S. (1997). 'Metrology, Metrication, and Victorian Values', in Lightman, B (1997). Victorian Science in Context. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 438-474.

Shannon, J.M. and G.C. (1999). The Assay Balance: Its Evolution and the History of the Companies that Made Them. The Pressworks, Englewood, Colorado.

Todd, J. (2004). For Good Measure: The Making of Australia's Measurement System. Allen & Unwin, Sydney.

Warburton, E. (2005). 'Dobbie, Alexander Williamson (1843-1912)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary volume, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, pp. 103-104.

Welborn, M.C. (1935). 'Studies in Medieval Metrology', Isis, Vol. 24, pp.15-36.

Williams, N.H. (2007). 'Robert Law and His Auxiliary Assay Balance', Historical Records of Australian Science, Vol. 18, pp.229-242.


Credit Line

Gift of Department of Services, Technology and Administration, Sydney, 2010

Acquisition Date

15 November 2017

Cite this Object


Imperial half bushel measure 2022, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 26 June 2022, <>


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