1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Spherometer

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SPHEROMETER (Gr. σφαῖρα, a sphere, μέτρον, a measure), an instrument for the precise measurement of the radius of a sphere or the thickness of a thin plate. The usual form consists of a fine screw moving in a nut carried on the centre of a small three-legged table; the feet forming the vertices of an equilateral triangle (see figure).

The lower end of the screw and those of the table legs are finely tapered and terminate in hemispheres, so that each rests on a point. If the screw has two turns of the thread to the millimetre the head is usually divided into 500 equal parts, so that differences of 0.001 millimetre may be measured without using a vernier. A lens, however, may be fitted, in order to magnify the scale divisions. A vertical scale fastened to the table indicates the number of whole turns of the screw and serves as an index for reading the divisions on the head. In order to measure the thickness of a plate the instrument is placed on a perfectly level plane surface and the screw turned until the point just touches; the exact instant when it does so is defined by a sudden diminution of resistance succeeded by a considerable increase. The divided head and scale are read; the screw is raised; the thin plate slipped under it; and the process is repeated. The difference between the two readings gives the required thickness. A contact-lever, delicate level or electric contact arrangement may be attached to the spherometer in order to indicate the moment of touching more precisely than is possible by the sense of touch. To measure the radius of a sphere—e.g. the curvature of a lens—the spherometer is levelled and read, then placed on the sphere, adjusted until the four points exert equal pressure, and read again. The difference gives the thickness of that portion of the sphere cut off by a plane passing through the three feet. Calling this distance h, and the distance between the feet a, the radius R is given by the formula .