The development of instruments for examining surfaces began in about 1919 with a simple mechanical device by Tomlinson at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL). The rst instrument for engineering use is ascribed to Schmalz [1]. Earlier than this, thought had already been given to the measurement of engineering surfaces using optical methods by Berndt in 1924 [2] and Andrews in 1928 [3]. That there was concern about surface measurement in countries other than Germany and the UK becomes apparent when it is realized that the rst call for surface nish standards was made in the USA by Harrison in 1930 [4]. (Needless to say it took 10 years before the rst B46 standard emerged.)

This may have stimulated Abbott also in the USA to develop the now familiar stylus technique in 1933 [5] (although Schmalz’s device was also based on a stylus). Although reported in 1933 Abbott’s instrument was not in general use for some years. It was the rst practical instrument for surface nish to be patented (U.S. Patent 2,240,278, British Patent 523436). One of the very rst was used in the Chrysler factory in 1936. Only a few hundred were ever made. The surface analyzer made by the Brush Development Company of Cleveland in 1935 came somewhat later but was more popular because it had a chart recorder [6].