Alfred Watkins' Bee Meter

Contributed by Museum Resource Centre

Alfred Watkins' Bee Meter with instructions

Photographic light meter taken on Scott's anarctic expedition allowing spectacular phographs to be taken by H G PontingAlfred Watkins, born in Hereford, invented the Bee Meter, which was patented in April 1890. This was the first light meter to measure the relative intensity of light through Watkins' invention of the actinometer and it allowed a numerical value to be assigned to light. The Bee Meter was a pocket calculator for determining exposure, so-called because it was small and highly efficient. It was manufactured in Friars Street, Hereford, in a building known as The Meter Works.

Its success was demonstrated when H G Ponting, the photographer on Scott's Antarctic Expedition in 1910, used a Watkins Meter to produce his amazing landscapes of this unknown continent. He told Watkins that without the meter, the photographs would have been impossible. Sales grew and the meters were exported worldwide. An order was received from China for which the half crown was eventually received. Watkins' son records this as one of his father's most treasured experiences. The Bee Meter can be seen at both the Museum Resource and Learning Centre and Leominster Museum.

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  • 1 comment
  • 1. At 08:43 on 19 March 2010, simon43 wrote:

    Alfred Watkins patent of 1890 was not concerning the Bee Meter, but what became known as The Watkins Standard Meter, initially produced in brass, and later in aluminium, manufactured for Watkins by R.Field of Birmingham. Later also produced in USA nickel plated. The Bee Meter was first produced in 1903. It was announced in the second edition (1903) of Watkins Manual of Exposure and Development.

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