Machine used to mark off equal intervals accurately, usually on precision instruments. Georg Friedrich von Reichenbach (1772–1826), a German maker of astronomical instruments, designed an early dividing engine, and Jesse Ramsden (1735–1800), a British pioneer in the design of precision tools, designed dividing engines of great accuracy for both circles and straight lines and produced highly accurate sextants, theodolites (see surveying), and vertical circles for astronomical observatories.
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