W. J. Young Solar Compass

This solar compass, one of the earliest instruments of its kind, is marked "Burts patent Made by Wm. J. Young Philada." It belonged to Artemas Curtis, a brother–in–law of the inventor, William Austin Burt. It was made by William J. Young in Philadelphia, probably in 1840, and it nicely illustrates the complex process of developing a successful instrument. Following Burt's instructions, Young produced an instrument in which the vernier for the variation arc was moved by hand. When that design proved inconvenient, a tangent screw was added to move the vernier–and this tangent screw covered the signature. This example is of that type. In later examples, the signature appears where it can be easily read.
Ref: John S. Burt, They Left Their Mark. A Biography of William Austin Burt (Rancho Cordova, Ca., 1985).
Currently not on view
Object Name
compass (solar)
Young, William J.
Burt, William A.
overall: 14 in; 35.56 cm
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Measuring & Mapping
Surveying and Geodesy
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Surveying and Geodesy
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
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