S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science




Robinson, Mr William Bernard (surveying)

Born: Date not known, Place not known.
Died: 1936, Place not known.

William B. Robinson passed the examination for the Certificate in the Theory of Land Surveying of the University of the Cape of Good Hope in 1896. After completing his practical training he was admitted to practice as a land surveyor in the Cape Colony in June 1899. In September 1902 he was admitted to practice also in the Transvaal Colony. During 1897 to 1901 he was employed with A. Simms* on the principal triangulation of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). When this work was completed he was employed on the principal triangulation of the Orange River Colony (now the Free State) and the Transvaal. This task was carried out during 1902-1906 under the supervision of Colonel W.G. Morris*. The survey started at the end of 1902 with the measurement of a baseline at Belfast, while sites for other baselines were selected at Ottoshoop, Wepener, Kroonstad and Hout River (north of Polokwane). Robinson and Simms measured the baselines, using nickel steel J?derin wires. When the measurements had been completed in July 1904 Robinson became responsible for computation of the results of the survey. He was officially appointed in the civil service of the Transvaal Colony on 1 January 1903, and from 1 January 1904 held the post of head computer in the Trigonometrical Survey.

In 1907 Robinson published a "Discussion of the geodetic position of Mr Melvill's astronomical station at Johannesburg, and the connection between the Rand system of surveys and the geodetic system", in the Journal of the Institute of Land Surveyors of the Transvaal (Vol. 1(5), pp. 175-183). E.H.V. Melvill* had determined the astronomical latitude and longitude of one of his stations in the Goldfields (or Rand) survey in 1892, and this survey was connected to the geodetic survey of the Transvaal by means of a secondary triangulation carried out by Captain H.W. Gordon*. Robinson's paper presented the results of this work. A little later he published a second paper in the same journal, "On the J?derin method of base measurement and the Johannesburg and Pretoria standards of comparison" (1908, Vol. 1(7), pp. 261-274).

By 1905 Robinson was a member of the Institute of Land Surveyors of the Transvaal, and was still listed as a member in 1909. However, after 1906 he settled in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where he was licensed to practice in August 1908, and worked in the surveyor-general's office in Salisbury (now Harare).


List of sources:
Cape of Good Hope. Report of the Surveyor-General, 1897.

Journal of the Institute of Land Surveyors of the Transvaal, 1905-1909, Vol. 1, papers by Robinson and lists of members.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). . Documents relating to Robinson, William Bernard.

Transvaal civil service list, 1906.

University of the Cape of Good Hope. Calendar, 1903/4.

Zakiewicz, T. The African arc of the 30th meridian. South African Journal of Surveying and Mapping, 1997, Vol. 24(2), pp. 65-82.


Compiled by: C. Plug


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