Gurley Abney Level

William de Wiveleslie Abney (1843–1920), an English scientist who made many important contributions to spectroscopy and photography, devised this instrument in the 1870s while working for the School of Military Engineering at Chatham. W. & L. E. Gurley described it as an English modification of the Locke hand level, noting that it gives angles of elevation "and is also divided for slopes, as 1 to 2, 2 to 1, etc." Since the main tube of this instrument is square, it can be applied to any plane surface. The clinometer scale is graduated to degrees, and read by vernier to 5 minutes. This example is marked "W. & L. E. GURLEY TROY, N.Y." New, it cost $15. The University of Missouri, Columbia, gave it to the Smithsonian Institution in 1972.
Ref: W. & L. E. Gurley, A Manual of the Principal Instruments Used in American Engineering and Surveying (Troy, N.Y., 1893), p. 228.
C. Jones, "Sir William de Wiveleslie Abney, K.C.B., D.C.L., D.Sc., F.R.S., Hon. F.R.P.S., etc.," The Photographic Journal 61 (1921): 296–311.
Currently not on view
Object Name
level (Abney)
W. & L. E. Gurley
box: 1 1/2 in x 2 7/8 in x 5 1/2 in; 3.81 cm x 7.3025 cm x 13.97 cm
level: 1 1/4 in x 2 1/8 in x 4 3/4 in; 3.175 cm x 5.3975 cm x 12.065 cm
place made
United States: New York, Troy
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Measuring & Mapping
Surveying and Geodesy
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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