George Louis Buff (1837–1923) was born and educated in Giessen. At age 17, preferring mechanics to the legal career that his parents favored, he went to Hamburg to work for Repsold, a leading German instrument firm. Buff moved to England in 1858 and worked for Thomas Cooke & Sons. He moved to New York in 1864. While working for Stackpole & Brother, Buff came to appreciate the market for the surveyor’s transit and decided to improve the design of this quintessentially American instrument. The result was Buff’s Precise Transit that would remain in production for at least 70 years. In 1869, with the new design in hand, Buff went into business on his own. In 1871 he moved to Boston and, in partnership with Christian Louis Berger, began trading as Buff & Berger.
In 1898, when Buff & Berger closed, Buff went into business with his
sons. Buff & Buff boasted that their new factory, located on the outskirts
of Boston at Jamaica Plain, housed "The Most Precise Instrument Shops in
the World." At its heart was the dividing engine of 28.5 inches diameter
that G. L. Buff built in 1899. Buff & Buff acquired another dividing engine,
this one of 48 inches diameter, in 1903. Buff & Buff remained successful
throughout the first half of the 20th century, making precise instruments for
public and private surveys, but could not adjust to the electronic revolution
that swept the instrument enterprise in the post-war period. The firm came to an end in the 1980s.