Surveying: Theory and Practice, by James M. Anderson & Edward M. Mikhail

The authors of this volume were at first unfamiliar to me. But the title should not have been. Checking the back of the title page, I found the reason for my perplexity: the names of the original authors of the book had been dropped. I read that it was "Previously published as Davis, F. E. [should be R. E.], Foote, F. S., etc." The title, Surveying: Theory and Practice, is so generic that I had always known it as "Davis and Foote." The names have a snappy ring to them and had been instantly recognized by generations of surveyors.

The dropping of the original authors' names in this latest edition seems to imply that this isn't their book anymore. Strictly speaking, it isn't. Both of the original authors have, I presume, passed away, and the appearance of their names in the sixth edition is purely formal. It seems to me that they would have understood the changes made in the sixth edition but not those in the seventh. For this reason, the dropping of their names is justified. But a tribute to these two prominent advocates of the profession in the preface would have been appropriate.

Overjoyed by the discovery of the past versions of this book, I retrieved my copy of the fifth edition to compare the seventh with it. Both, I quickly found, begin with the same definition of surveying. I suspect it goes back to the first edition, published in 1928. In fact, the entire first chapter of both editions is nearly the same.

The third chapter just adds office work to field work. Both books, moreover, contain individual chapters on the measuring of distances-horizontal and vertical-and angles. Both cover astronomical observations. The seventh edition omits several types of surveying, notably mine and hydrographic, but is no less "complete and extensive" in its coverage of topographic, route, construction, and especially land surveying. Despite first appearances, the seventh is sufficiently similar to the fifth to be a further edition, not a new book.

Yet, it is also decisively different. Briefly, the fifth edition, published in 1966, still expounds transit and tape surveying. The sixth, published in 1981, made the transition to total stations and computerization. This seventh, published in 1998, covers global positioning and spatial information systems. The intent of this latest revision is "to bring all materials up to date and introduce new methods and procedures that have been developed in the last 10 years as a result of extremely rapid technological advances in positioning equipment and data acquisition and processing procedures".
The change is apparent in the first chapter, with the inclusion of a section on geodetic surveying preceding plane surveying. The next chapter is devoted entirely to the theoretical background of GPS measurements and to their adjustments, notably the types of errors, statistics and least squares. The chapters on making measurements still recount traditional instrumentation but now elaborate the use of GPS equipment and the procedures for processing the measurements made with it. As in previous editions, specialized areas are written by experts in these areas. In this edition, the chapter on the global positioning system was written by Bryn Fosburgh. Similarly, the chapter on digital mapping and spatial information systems was written by James Bethel, Steven R. Lambert, and Jolyon D. Thurgood. But this chapter is presaged by a discussion of the employment of data collectors, amplifies the chapter on map projections, and follows a thorough chapter on photogrammetry.

In addition to shifting the focus of surveying from traditional tools and methods to GPS/GIS, the seventh edition is more organized. The fifth contains 32 chapters that seem to meander from topic to topic. The seventh contains 18 chapters, and these are arranged in five groups: Concepts, Basic Survey Measurements, Survey Operations, Modern Surveying and Mapping, and Type of Surveys. The chapters, moreover, are divided into two parts: Elementary Topics and Advanced Topics. This breakdown permits the book to be used as a text in two sequential courses on surveying. Toward this end, problems are included at the end of the chapters.

The grouping of the chapters is an attempt to put more order into the presentation of the material. This order, however obvious it may be to the authors, begs to be understood. The title of the book is Surveying Theory and Practice. The first group of chapters, entitled Concepts, does not, as might be expected, expound theory. The theoretical, i.e. mathematical, background to surveying is presented in five appendices. Various mathematical concepts are further developed throughout the book as the need arises. The book can therefore be read (in spite of the claim in the preface that "the reader should recognize that surveying is essentially the science of metrology or measurement") as an induction into the practice of surveying. From this perspective, the first group of chapters is concerned with the thinking that goes into surveying, the second, third, and fourth with the activities that comprise surveying (i.e. measuring angles and distances, and horizontal and vertical positioning by traditional and "modern" means), and the fifth with the manner in which these activities are modified to achieve certain end results.

Among the types of surveys, land surveying is a special kind because it involves the application of boundary law. It is given ample coverage in the last chapter. To a stalwart land surveyor, this chapter is worth reading all by itself. It covers everything from research to the setting of monuments concisely and comprehensively. Whatever it does not cover is best learned from experience.

Needless to say, the authors of this book are no longer strangers to me. The best compliment I can give them, in addition to recognizing their thorough knowledge of the subject, is that they have produced a book that is eminently readable.

About the Author

  • Wilhelm A. Schmidt, PLS
    Wilhelm A. Schmidt, PLS
    Wilhelm Schmidt is the former owner of the surveying firm Bascom and Sieger in Allentown, Pennsylvania. You may contact him at

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