About Surveying

A Brief History of Surveying

Land surveying is one of the oldest recorded professions. The earliest accounts were found in Egypt (where men stretched a rope to take measurements), although it is believed that the Babylonians practiced surveying as early as 2500 B.C.

Some boundary monuments set in place around 1300 B.C. still exist today.

The earliest surveys in the New World were to map the country rather than delineate boundaries. Surveyors were needed to explore and map rivers and other waterways. After a variety of astronomers, mathematicians and frontiersmen performed the work, colonial surveyors (mostly men of high social position) were able to achieve some financial security, and in 1693, the College of William and Mary was charged with the responsibility of issuing Surveying examinations and licensing, as well as Surveyor General appointments. Among the most famous firsts were George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

George Washington’s original 1776 manuscript plat of his farm near Mt. Vernon is among one of 12 prepared by him that are held in the Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

The U.S. Rectangular System and land grants from European countries govern surveying in the state of Florida. The earliest surveys conducted in the 1800s divided Florida into one-square-mile sections, which were later subdivided into “Record Subdivisions” containing individual lots, the simplest means of conveying land today.