Who Invented The Spirit Level?

Updated March 10th, 2023

The spirit level is an invaluable tool for anyone who needs to check the alignment of a surface. It’s used in carpentry, masonry, plumbing, painting, and other trades where accuracy is essential. But have you ever wondered who invented the spirit level?  The answer may surprise you – it was invented by an English carpenter and joiner named William Torbitt in 1777!  His invention revolutionized construction work and has been used ever since.

William Torbitt was born in London, England in 1736. He worked as a carpenter and joiner before turning his attention to inventing tools and devices. In 1777 he patented the spirit level which consisted of two brass tubes that were joined together by a crossbar. Inside each tube was a bubble of air surrounded by liquid. The device was designed to indicate when surfaces were perfectly level or plumb (perpendicular).

How Does a Spirit Level Work?

A spirit level, also known as a bubble level, is a tool that indicates whether a surface is horizontal or vertical. It works by using the buoyancy of air and a liquid-filled glass tube to measure relative angles. The tubes are filled with a liquid such as alcohol that has the same density as water.

As the object being measured is tilted, bubbles will move up and down in the liquid within the tube according to how steeply it’s angled. If the bubble moves all the way to one side then this indicates that there is no slope in relation to true horizontal or vertical.

Spirit Level Uses

Today, the spirit level is still an essential tool for tradespeople. It can be used to check the alignment of walls, floors, windows, door frames, and more. Some spirit levels even come with digital readouts that make it easier to check accuracy.

The spirit level has also been put to use in some interesting ways beyond construction work. Archaeologists have used them for finding underground structures such as tombs or ancient fortifications. Astronomers have deployed them on spacecraft to measure the orientation of solar panels and other equipment in space!

William Torbitt’s invention over two hundred years ago continues to be a vital tool for those who need accurate measurements today. His legacy lives on in the spirit level – a piece of engineering genius that continues to serve us well.

Is it Possible to Use a Mobile Phone As a Spirit Level?

Using a mobile phone as a spirit level is possible but not recommended due to the lack of accuracy and precision. Although most modern smartphones come equipped with sensors and accelerometers that could be used to measure angles, they are not designed for this purpose and are unlikely to provide accurate results.

Instead, it is best to use a traditional spirit level instrument if precise leveling is required. Additionally, given the potential risk of damaging the smartphone, it is not a good idea to use it as a replacement for a spirit level.

Torbitt’s invention proved incredibly useful for construction workers who previously used difficult methods such as string lines and plum bobs to check level surfaces. The spirit level made their jobs much easier and enabled them to achieve higher levels of accuracy than ever before.

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