The company started with Benjamin Martin (1704 – 1782), a teacher and scientific instrument maker. Martin moved from Surrey to fleet street in 1750 to be near the Royal Society. He loved to hear his hero, Newton lecture. He published “the philosophical Grammar” in 1735, then produced a work on non-mathmatical subjects “Bibliotheca technologica” which was funded by 564 subscribers – earlty crowdfunding! In 1749 he published ‘Lingua Britannica Reformata’ which contained a universal dictionary some 6 years before Samuel Johnson’s dictionary. Martin settled in fleet street London to be close to the Royal Society which was then based nearby, and began to trade as an optician and instrument maker. Initially he made instruments for his own use, but soon he made them for general sale. A principle that would show up much later in the company’s story.
Hailed as one of the pioneers of the modern microscope, Martin was also a spectacle maker and is famous for ‘Martin’s Margins’. He also was the first to use coloured lenses to aid people with reading difficulties – a system which is now used to help treat various forms of dyslexia.
In 1757, Martin acquired the globe plates and tools from the late John Senex. Globe manufacture and sale became a large part of his activities. He advertised them through his own catalogue and published tracts which was quite an innovation.
In 1758 he produced “New Principles of Geography and Navigation”
Joined by his son Joshua Lover Martin in 1758’s, B. Martin & Son was formed both manufacturing and selling a range of scientific instruments including Halley’s quadrants, spectacles, microscopes and telescopes.