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Captain Cook's sextant, c 1772.

Captain Cook's sextant, c 1772.
3 2 c m
actual image size: 32cm x 24cm


This sextant was made by the optical instrument maker John Bird (1709-1776) and is thought to have belonged to the great sea captain and explorer Captain James Cook. A sextant is an optical instrument for measuring angular distances for determining latitude. The observer can view the horizon (through a telescope) and the sun simultaneously (through a mirror attached to an arm on a graduated arc). The mirror can be moved over the arc to produce a co-incidence of the sun-image and the horizon.

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© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

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