The Art of Surveying
Whether land surveying is more of an art or a science has been a contentious debate for centuries, and throughout history the pendulum has swung back and forth in support of both theories. Despite recent technological developments in surveying that have pitted the debate more towards the scientific realm, to the more experienced surveyor, surveying is more of an art than a science.
The History of Surveying
Surveying is an old trade with archeological evidence showing that by 3000 BC Egyptians had a land registry. Though little information has been written about early surveyors, evidence shows that they took great pride in their tradecraft in determining the correct position of land boundaries despite adopting rudimentary techniques. Modern surveying, developed about 300 years ago, has experienced drastic changes in the past twenty years mainly attributed to the digital revolution and satellite technology. Back in the day surveyors relied more on the magnetic compass to carry-out their tasks, but modern innovations such as GPS technology have made the compass obsolete.
Why is Surveying more of an Art than a Science?
In essence, surveying is an art because it greatly relies on instruments to create something. The surveyor’s ‘instruments’ refers to the mathematical knowledge of trigonometry and geometry coupled with measuring tools adopted in the field. The artistic aspect of surveying manifests itself in the surveyor’s skill of blending various elements- mathematical principles, equipment, past surveys, and legal documents- to produce an accurate map that tries to make sense of the chaos of life. In addition, the discipline relies greatly on historical information to solve land disputes.
The Earth as a Puzzle
Many properties have issues ranging from improper boundaries, titles, easements, to miscalculations in past surveys. Moreover, since most properties are developed on land parcels carved out of a larger land parcel, they are more prone to miscalculation errors. These errors manifest themselves in the form of overlaps and gaps between adjacent parcels. To solve this quagmire, the surveyor artistically fits the ‘chips’ into the ‘puzzle’ after carrying out extensive research and fieldwork on the discrepancies.
Surveying is more of an art than a science as the surveyor depends greatly on his/her artistic altruism to make sense of the chaos of life.
Technology has impacted greatly on modern surveying
Surveyors have the legal right to correct boundary distortions/errors done by their predecessors.