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THE LIFE AND TIMES OF
WILLIAM A. BURT,

BY GEORGE H. CANNON.
June 7, 1882.

Very little, if anything, came of the other schemes. " While engaged upon his duties as internal commissioner, his correspondence had become extensive, and his opinion upon disputed and difficult surveys was often sought, and ever deemed conclusive. In order to facilitate the labor of replying to these many and varied inquiries, he sought to construct an instrument by which his correspondence could be easily put in printed form. Upon this invention he spent much time and thought. It was a success in matter of printing, but occupied too much time in making copy, and did not fully meet his requirements. In the meantime he had constructed a surveying instrument quite different from anything of the kind ever seen before. The idea came to him while prosecuting the surveys in Michigan. He was at work in a region of country where the aberrations of the needle were considerable, so much so as to affect the work. Repeated observations on Polaris showed great changes in the deflection of the compass needle. His lines closed badly. He re-measured them and found no error, still his work was not satisfactory, and he passed many a sleepless night in study and observation; and was just becoming convinced that no satisfactory survey could be made with the present surveying instrument. He believed he could invent a better one. The idea in his mind was fast becoming a conviction that the magnetic needle was not to be depended upon. His knowledge of astronomy was now of practical use. Consider the sun with reference to the earth a fixed point in the heavens, and then provide for the latitude of the place and the sun's declination, and there must ensue a true meridian.

Michigan


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