Who Invented the Vernier Caliper


A vernier caliper is one of the most useful tools there is that can measure both the internal and the external diameter of an object. Depending on the precision of the instrument, it is able to measure in fractions of millimeters so that absolute exact measurements can be obtained. This means that a zero error can be obtained, allowing for no discrepancies will be in the diameter measurement. The idea of the caliper being used as a tool for measurement has been dated to at least 9 AD during the Xin Dynasty.

The initial calipers used a slot and pin system that could define measurements in tenths of inches. As for the modern vernier caliper, which measures in thousandths of an inch, the credit goes to American inventor Joseph Brown.

Why Are They Called Vernier Calipers?

Even though calipers had been around for centuries, the modern caliper is often called a vernier caliper because of one man, Pierre Vernier. He was born in 1580 and his work helped to design a more efficient caliper that offered graduated measurements. To compliment these measurements, he created a scale that he published in 1631. That scale was altered in the 19th century and has been used in its current state ever since.

What Joseph Brown contributed to the process was an affordable set of calipers that could be made available to machinists of all incomes. Before his invention, calipers were an expensive tool that only higher income organizations and individuals could afford to perfect the machining process. Brown wanted everyone to have the ability to machine quality products should creativity strike and that’s exactly what the modern vernier calipers are able to provide.

Joseph Brown Had a Reputation For Precision

What got Joseph Brown started down the road to the vernier calipers was an apprenticeship that he held in Rhode Island. It brought about a fascination with small tools and he initially used his fascination with his father’s shop to help repair watches and clocks.

As time went on, he helped to develop a linear dividing machine and worked on creating machines that could make precision cuts. A sewing machine manufacturer took notice of his work and hired him to improve their machines through more precisioned components. He helped to produce a universal milling machine as well that could be used as a tool-room machine.

Although many contributed to the world of precision tools, it was Joseph Brown, stepping up on the efforts of those who came before him, to make the vernier calipers a reality. Every time you use a product that requires precision instruments that are made of similar quality and size, you can thank Brown and everyone else for their work so that you can get your work done.

Metric vs US Standard Measuring