Thursday, 15 March 2012

The History and Story of Ordnance Survey

This logo is reproduced here by kind permission of Ordnance Survey, Southampton

We in Southampton are justly proud of the fact Ordnance Survey have their headquarters based in our city and I personally take great pleasure at the sight of their offices whenever I pass them,  as I am reminded of so many happy days in my far off teen-age years, when I hiked for miles and miles around the country, always with a 1" to the mile Ordnance Survey map as my guide.

From the map, by looking at the contour lines,  I could see that in another two miles along the B road I was travelling on I would see the tower of a church on the horizon, with the promise of a spectacular view from there.   Whatever the situation, it was all there in greater detail; than any photograph could ever show.

I sought the answer to how such great detail could be drawn so accurately, and I learned how - about two hundred years ago - the whole of the country was divided up into triangles, using compass bearings, measuring chains, walking the ground, and old fashioned arithmetic, and from this triangulation maps were made.  It is a truly fascinating story of  a brilliant achievement.

Fast forward to a few months ago when I watched on TV a documentary film about how those two hundred year old calculations were checked a short while ago.   This time they used the very latest, 21st century, state of the art equipment.

The result of this new, very hi-tech survey, after covering the entire country, came out to within inches of those two hundred year old calculations.  A magnificent tribute to the high standards maintained from the very start by Ordnance survey, and carried on today into the digital age.

The subject matter of our meeting for Thursday 12 April is perhaps best described in the following words

Founded amidst the threat of Napoleonic invasion in the 18th century, Ordnance Survey is now a key part of the modern day digital information economy.    Geoff May, who retired from Ordnance Survey in March 2008 and was latterly their Parliamentary Engagement Manager, charts the progress of the organisation over the last 220 years.

From the comments I am already hearing from members, this promises to be a highly popular meeting, and one we are very much looking forward to.

John G.

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