The Geometry of Surveying

In years past, I spent a considerable period of time as a surveying technician with private firms and government agencies across the United States. I was never a licensed surveyor, but I worked at various times as chainman, instrument operator, party chief, and office technician. One aspect of the profession that still attracts me is the geometry. The work of surveyors is intrinsically dependent upon the fact of certain geometric concepts.

Surveying procedures are based on geometry, but they propagate mostly through training and tradition. Unfortunately, bad practices are passed along the same way. By maintaining a connection with the underlying theory, we can understand our work better and perhaps avoid trouble. On the job, I sometimes tried to influence others on questions of procedure, but my success was spotty. People simply did not connect with those three-dimensional sketches that I would draw in the air with my finger. That is the motivation behind this article. After all these years away from it, I am taking time to explain some of my points properly.


Theodolite Error
Theodolite Adjustment
The Vernier Scale
Repeating Theodolites
Questionable Practices

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Last update: January 26, 2012 ... Paul Kunkel
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