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Peter Burt's 'Sounding Buoy and Knipper', 1813 - 1817

Reference Code: GBR/0180/RGO 14/31: 156-191

Scope and Contents

Letters and printed material concerning Burt's invention of a ‘Sounding Buoy and Knipper’. Includes sixteen letters from Burt, and copies of letters from the Admiralty Office, Thomas Hurd and the Board of Longitude. Also included is a letter from a Royal Navy Master named James Nash, who reported on trials of Burt's invention, noting that it produced true soundings but broke after just a few days [RGO 14/31: 176-177]. Subsequent letters from Burt show that he was aware that an unfavourable report had been submitted, and evidence his attempts to convince the Board that this failure was uncommon.
The letters show that the Board of Longitude approved of the simplicity of his invention, and ordered trials to be conducted in which Burt's sounding buoy would be compared with that of Edward Massey. It was later adopted by the Royal Navy. However, while Burt repeatedly petitioned the Board for financial compensation, he appears to have been unsuccessful, as a letter dated 1817 shows that he ultimately asked for the return of his papers, intending to send a petition to the House of Commons [RGO 14/31: 190-190a]. Many of the letters also highlight the professional rivalry that existed between Burt and Massey. Burt explicitly emphasises the superiority of his sounding buoy over Massey’s invention, see for example [RGO 14/31: 181-182], and in one letter, expresses his wish to be given a greater reward than was given to his rival [RGO 14/31: 189-189a].
For a related letter from Massey concerning a trial of Burt's sounding buoy and knipper, see also [RGO 14/31: 150-152].


  • Creation: 1813 - 1817


Conditions Governing Access

From the Management Group:

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47 folio(s) (47 ff.) : Paper

Language of Materials



Burt, Peter; Hurd, Thomas; Lash, James; Davis

Finding aid date

2011-11-29 16:52:59+00:00

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
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Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom