A Brief History of Vernier Calipers

Jerome Lalande
Jerome Lalande

From China to France

The first caliper was found in a wreck off the Italian coast called the Greek Giglio wreck. The ship found in the wreck was thought to have been from the 6th century. So it seems that the Greeks and the Romans used calipers for measurement.

Calipers were known to have been used in china during the Han Dynasty (202BC-220AD). These Chinese calipers were made of bronze and had the manufacturing date engraved on each caliper.

Early calipers were not only used for precise measurements of objects but also were used by Europeans to calculate direction as a compass.

Pierre Vernier, born in 1580 in the Ornana, Franche-Comte in the Spanish Hapsburgs (now France) invented the "graduated caliper."

He created the Vernier scale that was published in 1631 in his publication "La construction, visage, et les proprietes fue quadrant nouvea de mathmatiques"

Jerome Lalande changed the scale to the Vernier scale during the beginning of the 19th century which took hold and remained for many years.

The modern caliper was manufactured and mass produced by an American, Joseph R Brown, in 1851 that made calipers available to machinist of all income brackets.

Vernier Scale
Vernier Scale

What is the Vernier Scale?

The Vernier Scale consists of quadrants with the primary scale in half degrees. Pierre attached a movable jaw to a fixed jaw, where the movable jaw was connected to the graduated scale.

This scale was thirty one and one half degrees in length and divided into three equal parts. Each part was one half a degree plus one minute.

Inside Caliper
Inside Caliper
Brown and Sharpe Dial Calipers
Brown and Sharpe Dial Calipers
Micrometer Calipers
Micrometer Calipers

Different Types of Calipers

Inside Caliper- Measures the inside of an object.

Outside Caliper- measures the outside of an object.

Vernier Caliper- Has a calibrated fixed jaw and a non-fixed jaw that slides on a Vernier scale.

Dial Caliper-Same as the Vernier except reads final fraction of millimeter or inch amounts on a simple dial. The dial caliper can be locked with a lever for a go/no go option.

Digital Caliper-Has an electronic display that displays the measurement in millimeters or inches.

Micrometer Caliper-A smaller caliper made for very small measurements.

Notes on Use of Calipers

The force exerted on the object being measured is elastic so the person using the caliper must exert a constant firm force while taking the measurement.

You need to ensure that when the calipers jaws are closed that the caliper scale reading is at zero, if the reading is not at zero calibration is required.

You can also use zero error to maintian an actual reading of the scale is the caliper is not zeroed properly.

One would use the following equation to determine the actual reading:

actual reading=main scale measurement+Vernier scale measurement-(zero error)

There are two different zero errors that can be used in this equation.

Positive (+) zero error = any measurement above zero at closed jaw.

Negative (-) zero error = any measurement below zero at closed jaw.

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Comments 11 comments

Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 3 years ago from San Francisco

Fascinating. Thank you for this.

jhamann profile image

jhamann 3 years ago from Reno NV Author

Thank you Martin. Jamie

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

So very interesting Jamie;I vote up ,across and share. Have a great day.

Lots of love


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO

I always forget what they call those things! Calipers! That's it!

And thanks to you, now I know what they are used for. Ill feel so smart next time a person brings the subject up:) lol

jhamann profile image

jhamann 3 years ago from Reno NV Author

Thanks Eddy and RealHousewife. Jamie

Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 3 years ago from Brownsville,TX

very interesting.. thank you for sharing



jhamann profile image

jhamann 3 years ago from Reno NV Author

Thank you Deborah for stopping by to read my hub on calipers, I feel like this is a huge leap from the poetry that I like to write and share, but I am glad that you took the time to look at my less creative hubs. Jamie

Mobile Spy Windows 3 years ago

I’ve browsed tons of sites and have yet to aquire a site that is as useful and informative as yourshas.

jhamann profile image

jhamann 3 years ago from Reno NV Author

Thank you Mobile Spy Window. Jamie

Antonio C 2 years ago

There is an error here, the inventor of the nonius isn't called Dedros Nunes nor was he spanish. It was invented by the portuguese mathematician Pedro Nunes (or Petrus Nonius) in the XVI century.

jhamann profile image

jhamann 2 years ago from Reno NV Author

Thank you Antonio C I have removed the error. I appreciate you pointing this out. I hope you have a great week. Jamie

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