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CommunicationPublished on 6 July 2020

The Theodolite. A high-tech instrument on the Alpine summits

The theodolite was a key instrument in the production of topographic maps. The heavy, bulky, and complex instrument demanded a great deal of the porters and engineers but also took them to wild spots with breath-takingly beautiful scenery. But what exactly did theodolites do?

The painting shows four people gathered around a campfire in mountainous terrain. In the background, two men stand behind a theodolite in the fog.
In order to be able to appreciate the colossal difficulties [...] one has to consider that first of all the whole country had to be surveyed down to the furthest corners and up over the highest glaciers down to the smallest detail, no one who has not already wandered for days on end, freezing in fog and rain in the inhospitable heights above, all through the day far away from any human dwelling and exposed to the danger of death with every misstep [...] can imagine the enormous amount of work that the mountainous nature of our country represents.
Translation from the German text quoted by Gugerli/Speich, 171.

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