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Calibration is a comparison between measurements - one of known magnitude or correctness made or set with one device and another measurement made in as similar a way as possible with a second device.

The device with the known or assigned correctness is called the standard. The second device is the unit under test (UUT), test instrument (TI), or any of several other names for the device being calibrated.



The words "calibrate" and "calibration" were not created in the English language until the time period 1861 - 65, when it was created regarding military artillery during the American Civil War [1]

Many of the earliest measuring devices were intuitive and easy to conceptually validate. The term "calibration" probably was first associated with the precise division of linear distance and angles using a dividing engine and the measurement of gravitational mass using a weighing scale. These two forms of measurement alone and their direct derivatives supported nearly all commerce and technology development from the earliest civilizations until about 1800AD.

The Industrial Revolution introduced wide scale use of indirect measurement. The measurement of pressure was an early example of how indirect measurement was added to the existing direct measurement of the same phenomena.

Before the Industrial Revolution, the most common pressure measurement device was a hydrostatic manometer, which is not practical for measuring high pressures. Eugene Bourdon fulfilled the need for high pressure measurement with his Bourdon tube pressure gage.

In the direct reading hydrostatic manometer design on the left, unknown pressure pushes the liquid down the left side of the manometer U-tube (or unknown vacuum pulls the liquid up the tube, as shown) where a length scale next to the tube measures the pressure, referenced to the other, open end of the manometer on the right side of the U-tube. The resulting height difference "H" is a direct measurement of the pressure or vacuum with respect to atmospheric pressure. The absence of pressure or vacuum would make H=0. The self-applied calibration would only require the length scale to be set to zero at that same point.

In a Bourdon tube shown in the two views on the right, applied pressure entering from the bottom on the silver barbed pipe tries to straighten a curved tube (or vacuum tries to curl the tube to a greater extent), moving the free end of the tube that is mechanically connected to the pointer. This is indirect measurement that depends on calibration to read pressure or vacuum correctly. No self-calibration is possible, but generally the zero pressure state is correctable by the user.

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