an obsolete instrument for determining the altitude of the sun by facing away from the sun, sighting upon the horizon, adjusting a cursor until its shadow falls upon the sight through which the horizon appears, and measuring the resulting arc.
Words nearby back staff
Origin of back staff
First recorded in 1620–30
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019
Examples from the Web for back staff
This instrument was known also as "the back-staff" from the position of the observer with his back to the sun when using it.Life Aboard a British Privateer in the Time of Queen Anne|Robert C. Leslie