The rapid development of manufacturing technology during the first half of the nineteenth century was accompanied by, and in fact could hardly have taken place without, a corresponding development in the design and manufacture of measuring machines, standardization of screw threads and indeed such basic things as engineering flat surfaces and straight edges, all of which are essential for precision manufacturing on a large-scale. Among the famous names involved were Henry Maudsley, who made what is probably the first accurate measuring machine, which he called his Lord Chancellor (now in the Science Museum, London) and Joseph Whitworth, who was trained by Maudsley. Whitworth is credited with developing, while working for Maudsley, the technique of making a flat surface by successively scraping off the high spots from three flats one against each other. In due course, Whitworth was able to make steel plates sufficiently flat that they would stick together. He then went on to produce many measuring machines and introduced his system of standard screw threads. By the middle of the nineteenth century engineering metrology had reached a high level with widely available measuring machines that could measure to 0.0001 inch with corresponding flat surfaces and straight edges also at the disposal of engineering works. Added to these was the codification of the principles of engineering design that allowed rigid structures to be made with well-fitting components connected together so that linear and circular movements could be obtained. All of this comes under the name of kinematic design. In the 1840s, the principles of engineering design were even beginning to be taught at Cambridge University by Robert Willis who is thought to have been the person from whom James Clark Maxwell and William Thomson learnt their principles of mechanisms and engineering design.
The next major advance in engineering metrology was made by Carl Eduard Johansson, who in the last decade of the nineteenth century invented the techniques for making accurate gauge blocks by hand lapping using a domestic sewing machine. He made sets of 102 gauges each having an accuracy of 1 μm. Standards of length in the range from 1 to 201 mm with an accuracy better than 10 μm could be obtained by wringing together combinations of two or more individual gauges.
The stage was thus set for the development of modern metrology.