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Land Surveyors United HANDBOOK

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Land Surveyors United Resources Handbook

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  • Point of Beginning — The Oldest of the Surveying Magazines
  • American Surveyor Magazine — A paid subscription print magazine - Just became free…subscribe now
  • GPS World — The latest GPS news for surveyors and other professions
  • GeoPlace — GPS in the News
  • Cadalyst — Cad Information - Hugh AutoLisp library
  • Professional Surveyor — addresses the processes and tools of position and measurement as well as the role of the surveyor
  • Earth Observation Magazine — EOM provides up-to-date coverage of developments with satellite imagery, digital aerial photography, digital topographic datasets and more!
  • GIS Monitor (weekly) — GIS Monitor takes a fresh look at GIS software, data, GPS, location-based services, wireless and other industries and technologies that touch the location technology arena






[thanks LSRP]









































Cincinnati State Technical & Community College - Engineering Technologies
East Tennessee State University - Surveying and Mapping Science Program
Michigan Technology University - Surveying Program
New Jersey Institute of Technology - Surveying Engineering and Technology Program
The Ohio State University - Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering & Geodetic Science
Oregon Institute of Technology - Surveying Program
Penn State Wilkes-Barre - College of Engineering and Surveying Program
Purdue University - School of Civil Engineering
Suny - ESF Ranger School
Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi - Dept. of Computers & Mathematics
University of Wyoming - Civil and Architectural Engineering
University of Folorida - Geomatica Student Association

ACSM Accredited Schools and Programs



Education in Surveying: Why Go to College?
In the formal surveying area, it is important to have core mathematical skills such as algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus.
This article appeared in the November 2004 issue of Professional Surveyor.

Land Surveying Scholarships Available

Colleges and Universities Offering Land Surveying Programs

ABET Accredited Surveying/Geomatics Programs









Dynamic or Kinematic GPS

Dymanic or Kinematic GPS is becoming the default method of navigation for small craft as the complex computations previously necessary are all performed on-board the receiver. They work independently of the weather, 24 hours per day ( but not under trees or water), perform spheroidal calculations and automatically convert between coordinate datums.

Static GPS

The highest level of accuracy obtainable with GPS requires use of two units, one as a base station and the other visiting the points of interest. It is then possible to compute the vector between these two units to a much higher degree of accuracy than we can compute absolute latitude and longitude. Practically all the systematic errors that can occur in GPS positioning can be eliminated if we measure to a set of satellites simultaneously from two receivers, a process known as differential positioning.

Differential Positioning

The typical configuration for differential positioning is shown below, two units receiving signals from the same constellation of satellites at the same time. The relative position of the two units can be determined to a very high accuracy, in many cases better than a centimetre. If one of these units was located over a point for which we had ground control coordinates it is then theoretically possible to obtain highly accurate coordinates for the other point. This is indeed the case, providing all the computations are performed in the one coordinate system.

Differential Positioning

This technique can be also applied if one of the receivers is on a moving platform, or is moved between points of interest while the base station remains fixed and continues to observe to the same satellites. This produces new procedures known as rapid-staticpositioning, kinematic positioning and pseudo-kinematic positioning. In general the units store the observations to the satellites and are downloaded to PC type computers at the end of the project. The differential solution is then computed using the complete set of data from all the receivers. The latest hardware systems can transmit the corrections between the base station and the rover allowing the solution to be determined on-the-fly so that positioning accuracies of around 0.01m are available in real-time.


Aerial photography
Photography of part of the earth's surface, but is not rectified to account for differences in scale throughout the photograph.
The vertical angle between the plane of the horizon and the line to the object which is observed. In photogrammetry, altitude applies to elevation above a datum of points in space.
Aneroid barometer
An instrument used to obtain heights above sea level by measuring atmospheric pressure. Since atmospheric pressure varies with the height above or below sea level, the height can be read directly from the height scale on the barometer.
Archaeological record
The archaeological record exists as a repository. Inside lie the decaying material remains of ancient beings and civilisations. As archaeologists approach their work, they encounter raw data from the archaeological record that serves as the source of their evidence to interpret.
The Automated Title System is the computerised legal register of freehold land, State tenure land and Reserve land in Queensland. The system also automates elements of the document receiving, lodgement, tracking and registration processes.
Australian Height Datum
The datum used to determine elevations in Australia. The AHD is based on mean sea level being zero elevation.
The horizontal angle measured from the meridian planes (a plane which contains the polar axis, being true north).
A surveyed line usually several kilometres long. It is established with the utmost precision available at the time. Surveys refer to the baseline for coordination and correlation. The baseline accumulates distances throughout a triangulation network, extending to other baselines, providing further integrated control.
Beam compass
A drafting instrument used for drawing circles with a long radius. The point and scribe are separate units, mounted to slide and clamp on a long beam.
An angle measured clockwise from a north line of 0° to a given surveyed line.
Bench mark
A permanent object, natural or artificial, displaying a marked point whose elevation above or below an adopted datum is known.
A mark carved in a tree trunk at about breast height, signifying close proximity of a survey line
A Latin term from 'cadastre' referring to a registry of lands. Cadastral surveying is the process of determining and defining land ownership and boundaries.
Cadastral map
A map depicting land parcels and associated nomenclature.
The art and science of the production of maps. This includes the construction of projections, design, compilation, drafting and reproduction.
Special purpose navigation maps chiefly used for nautical, aeronautical and mapping of the cosmos.
The Computer Inventory of Survey Plans is a database that provides current and historical survey plan information. It includes images of all survey plans registered in Queensland.
An instrument used to determine the angle of elevation or depression. A De Lisle's Pendent Clinometer was used by surveyors and engineers to set out slopes and gradients in the construction of paths, tracks and roads.
The magnetic compass has a pivoting magnetised needle that always points to magnetic north (geological features may influence readings). The compass circumference is divided into degrees from which a bearing of a chosen direction from magnetic north can be determined. A compass magnetic bearing must be converted to a grid bearing for plotting on a map.
Contour interval
The difference in elevation between adjacent contours as delineated on a map.
Lines joining points of equal height as shown on a topographic map. Contour lines that are relatively close together depict an area of steep terrain on the earth's surface.
Crown land
Land belonging to the reigning sovereign.
A mathematical representation that best fits the shape of the earth. Accurate mapping and coordinate systems must be based on a datum. A new datum known as the Geocentric Datum of Australia (GDA) was introduced in 2000 to bring Australia in line with the rest of the world's coordinate systems. GDA is also totally compatible with satellite based navigation systems, for example Global Positioning Systems (GPS). The previous datum used in Australia was known as the Australian Geodetic Datum (AGD). However, this was restricted because it was defined to best fit the shape of the earth in the Australian region only. The change in datums had a major consequence to all coordinates. Both latitudes/longitudes and eastings/northings were shifted by approximately 200 metres in a north-easterly direction.
The Digital Cadastral Database is the spatial representation of every parcel of land in Queensland. This is along with its legal Lot on Plan description and relevant attributes. It provides the map base for systems dealing with land related information.
Description of country
As described in the 1916 'Rules and Directions for the Guidance of Surveyors': "Country, whether undulating, broken, or rugged; timber, whether open, thick, heavy, or with undergrowth; scrubs, their character and situation, should be specially noted in field-books, as the rate of additional payment that may be allowed on such account is based on the information supplied".
Electronic Distance Measuring Equipment. This instrument measures distances using light or sound waves.
The height above mean sea level.
Earth Resources Technology Satellite. This was later renamed Landsat.
The geodetic coordinate of latitude and longitude generated using GDA as the datum as at 1 January 1994.
Geocentric datum
A datum which has its origin at the Earth's centre of mass. This datum can therefore be used anywhere on the planet and be compatible with the same datum anywhere else on the planet.
The science and mathematical calculations of the shape and size of the Earth.
Geographical coordinates
A point on a map given as latitude and longitude readings. The values are given as degrees, minutes and seconds.
Geographic Information Systems
GIS is the spatial capture of themed data layers and the storing, analysing and displaying of the geographically referenced information. A GIS also includes the procedures, software, hardware, operating personnel and spatial data associated with the system.
Global Positioning System
GPS is a satellite based navigation system originally developed by the United State's Department of Defence. A GPS receiver calculates a position by measuring distances to four or more satellites of a possible 24. These orbit the Earth at all times.
A network of crossing lines on a map representing parallels of latitude and meridians of longitude as defined by the projection.
A group of parallel lines that run perpendicular to another group of parallel lines to form a map coverage of squares.
Grid coordinates
A point on a map given as an easting and northing reading. The values are given in metres.
Grid north
The direction of the vertical grid lines shown on a topographic map. The difference between grid north and true north is referred to as grid convergence.
Gunter's chain
A distance measuring device composed of 100 metal links fastened together with rings. The length of the chain is 66 feet. It was invented in about 1620 by English astronomer, Edmund Gunter.
A member of a society who gains their subsistence in the wild on food obtained by hunting and foraging.
Features including rivers, streams, lakes, swamps and other water related features.
Hypsometric tinting
The use of different colours to signify changing elevations on a topographic map.
The angular distance along a meridian measured from the Equator, either north or south.LeClanche Cell
The cell consists of a glass vessel into which a zinc rod and a cylindrical pot of porous earthenware is placed. The earthenware pot holds a carbon plate. A mixture of equal parts of carbon and needle binoxide of manganese is packed around this plate. To set the cell into action, the glass vessel is nearly filled with a saturated solution of sal-ammoniac. A reaction takes place and a voltage of 1.46 volts is generated.
A term often used within the discipline of archaeology and denotes a customary way of living, or a way of life among people.
This is based on the principle that water and grease don't mix. After an image is drawn on limestone with a greasy medium, the stone is dampened and ink is applied with a roller. The greasy image repels the water and retains the ink. Paper is then pressed onto the surface.
Trenches dug beside a peg or post along the survey lines from the corner of a subject parcel. An example clause taken from the 1916 'Rules and Regulations for the Guidance of Surveyors' states:
On each side of the split pegs, and distant about one foot, lockspits, three feet in length and six inches in depth, are ... to be dug in the direction of the surveyed line. On very stony lands, rows of stones placed in the direction of the surveyed line may be substituted for dug-out lockspits.
Log tables
A set of tables used to abridge arithmetical calculations, by the use of addition and subtraction rather than multiplication and division.
The angular distance measured from a reference meridian, Greenwich, either east or west.
Magnetic north
The direction from a point on the earth's surface to the north magnetic pole. The difference between magnetic north and true north is referred to as magnetic declination.
A representation of the earth's surface where constituancies and related nomenclature are portrayed to a specific format.
Map projection
A means of systematically representing the meridians and parallels of the earth onto a plane surface.
Map scale
The relationship between a distance on a map and the corresponding distance on the earth's surface.
An object, for example an imprinted metal disc, used to designate a survey point. It is usually associated with terms such as reference mark, azimuth mark or bench mark.
Material culture
A term that refers to the physical objects created by a culture. This could include the buildings, tools and other artefacts created by the members of a society.
Measuring scales
Measuring scales allow the user to represent a subject or drawing to a recognisable reduction or constant ratio of the actual or proposed size. Many early scales were made of silver, ivory, bone or boxwood.
Mercator projection
A conformal cylindrical projection tangential to the Equator. Rhumb lines on this projection are represented as straight lines.
A straight line connecting the North and South Poles and traversing points of equal longitude.
Metes and bounds
The oldest known form of describing the perimeter of a parcel of land. The method of describing the boundary of a parcel of land in which the bearing and length of each successive line is given. Lines may also be described as following some apparent line, for example the bank of a stream.
The Universal Transverse Mercator coordinates of eastings, northings, and zones generated from GDA94 are called Map Grid of Australia 1994 coordinates.
A number of continuous aerial photographs overlapped and joined together by way of 'best fit' to form a single non-rectified image.
Aerial photograph images transformed using an 'orthophoto verification' process to remove distortions and capable of registering perfectly with cadastral data.
Information recorded on a transparent medium, superimposed and registered to one or more other records.
Used to mark survey corners on smaller portions or acreage. The size of the peg was determined by the 'Rules and Directions for the Guidance of Surveyors' editions. These referred to various land acts of the time from the 1860s onwards.
The science of obtaining reliable measurements by photography.
The process used in a semiconductor operation, which transfers the pattern of an image held on a photomask, onto a flat substrate surface. It follows similar principles to conventional lithography.
The Property Location Index is a database which provides a link between the parcel identifier (lot on plan) and its location address. It is considered the point of truth for location addresses.
The mathematical and calculated correction made to an aerial photograph to show its true ground position at a consistent scale.
Rhumb line
A straight line connecting two points on the earth's surface which cuts all meridians at the same angle. The line maintains a constant bearing.
The Resource Information Management Environment provides for the storage, management and dissemination of extensible digital topographic data held within the Department of Natural Resources and Water. It is a seamless, multi-scale environment covering Queensland.
A large area of land in which squatters could depasture their stock without a lot of fencing necessary. Employed shepherds looked after various areas of the runs. Runs became consolidated pastoral holdings. Many of the runs were about 25 sq miles in area and later became parishes.
This is the name given to the continent when Australia and New Guinea were a single landmass during the Pleistocene era. During this period, sea levels were approximately 150 metres lower than present levels.
Sandy Blight
A layman's term for chronic infection of the eyes with the trachoma organism, possibly leading to blindness. It is believed early European settlers brought the trachoma to Australia. Their poor hygiene evident in the low standard housing conditions, along with the dirt, heat and flies, caused the disease to become widespread. As living conditions improved, Sandy Blight in Australia had all but disappeared by the 1930s.
The Survey Control Database is a computerised record of the State's geodetic survey control data. Surveyors place and connect to these survey control points. The geodetic network provides a spatial reference framework for all surveys.
Runs were subdivided into selections for farming, agriculture and grazing homesteads. After a period of yearly rental payments, the selector could often obtain freehold ownership.
SmartMap Information Services is an electronic application that accesses, integrates and delivers (through the SmartMap interface) data available from many land-related datasets. These include ATS, DCDB, CISP, PLI, SCDB, Place Names and Aerial Photography Databases.
Spatial information
Data that has a geographical reference to a location on the earth's surface. This includes latitude and longitude co-ordinates, street address and lot number on plan.
Developed within the Dept of Natural Resources and Water, SunPOZ uses Virtual Reference Station technology by bringing together GPS architecture, networked computers and mobile phone communications to output centimetre-accurate positions in real time.
Survey post
Posts used on corners of large rural size blocks of land or town section corners. They were sharpened to a point, buried in the ground and exposed approximately 3'6" out of the ground.
Instrument used by a surveyor for measuring horizontal and vertical angles.
Tindale, Norman
A well known Australian anthropologist born in 1900. He was the curator of anthropology at the South Australian Museum for over 30 years. He is remembered for his work with the Australian Aborigines where he undertook the task of mapping Aboriginal Australia into language and territory groups along with the recording of numerous Aboriginal genealogies.
Topographic map
A detailed representation of cultural, hydrographic relief and vegetation features. These are depicted on a map on a designated projection and at a designated scale.
Transverse Mercator Projection
A projection similar to the Mercator projection, but has the cylinder tangent at a particular meridian rather than at the equator.
Trigonometrical survey
A concise method of surveying in which the stations are points on the ground located at vertices of a chain or network of triangles. The angles of the triangles are measured instrumentally and the sides are derived by computation from selected sides termed as baselines.
True north
The direction to the Earth's geographic North Pole.
Virtual Reference Station. See SunPOZ
Weichsel glaciation
The last glaciation of the ice age. An ice age is known as a period of low temperatures in the earth's climate causing an expansion of the earth's polar ice sheets and mountain glaciers. There have been approximately four distinct ice ages during the earth's history.


Auburn University

Cincinnati State Technical & Community College - Engineering Technologies
East Tennessee State University - Surveying and Mapping Science Program
Michigan Technology University - Surveying Program
New Jersey Institute of Technology - Surveying Engineering and Technology Program
The Ohio State University - Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering & Geodetic Science
Oregon Institute of Technology - Surveying Program
Penn State Wilkes-Barre - College of Engineering and Surveying Program
Purdue University - School of Civil Engineering
Suny - ESF Ranger School
Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi - Dept. of Computers & Mathematics
University of Wyoming - Civil and Architectural Engineering
University of Folorida - Geomatica Student Association


  • Balls - Slang for numeric .00, as in 4-balls (4.00)
  • Beep - Verb. To use a magnetic detector to look for iron pipe, etc.
  • Boot - To raise the levels rod some number of inches so as to be visible to the instrument man, e.g. "Boot 6!" means "raise it 6 inches."
  • Blue topping - In road or grading work the surveyor sets stakes and paints their tops blue to represent the required elevation. Graders then work to just cover the blue tops of the stakes.
  • Bug - To use a magnetic locator to search for an iron pipe.
  • Bullseye - Zero degrees of inclination.
  • Burn - See shoot
  • Burn one - Measure from the one foot mark on the tape rather than from the end of the tape in order to increase the accuracy of the measurement.
  • Cut line - To clear vegetation for a line of sight between two survey control points.
  • Double nickel - Slang for .55, as in 6-double nickel (6.55)
  • Dummy or dummy-end - The base or zero end of a tape or chain, as in "hold dummy at the face of the curb."
  • EDM - Electromagnetic Distance Measurement device, the instrument used by modern surveyors that replaces the use of measurement chains. It determines distance by measuring the time it takes for laser light to reflect off a prism on top of a rod at the target location.
  • Ginney - A wooden dowel 6-9 inches in length with a sharpened end. Set in the ground to mark survey points.
  • Glass - The EDM prism.
  • Gun - Originally, a transit, but potentially any measurement instrument in use, e.g. theodolite, EDM, or Total Station.
  • Hours - Degrees
  • Hub and Tack - A 2" by 2" stake that is set in the ground and that contains a nail ("tack") that precisely marks the point being set.
  • Jigger - Transit (Australia and New Zealand)
  • Legs - Tripod
  • Pogo - Prism pole
  • Punk - See railroad.
  • Railroad - Slang for eleven, as in 42-railroad (42.11)
  • Rodman - The person holding the rod with the EDM prism. This person is the modern version of a chain carrier or chain man.
  • Shoot - Measure distance with an EDM
  • Spike - Usually a 60 penny nail used to mark survey points in hard ground.
  • Stob - In the southeast U.S., a wooden stake or post, but in modern surveying, a piece of rebar used to mark a property boundary.
  • Tie - To locate something with the transit or other measuring device.
  • Top - Slang for eleven. See railroad.
  • Trip - Slang for triple digits, as in trip5 means 555, and 43trip7 means 43.777
  • Turn - The rodman is told to stay in place while the gun or level is moved to a new location.
  • Zero - Zero degrees, minutes, and seconds. A perfect zero.


B.R.L. - Building restriction line.

FD - Found

IPF - Iron pipe found

IRF - Iron rod found

L.O.D. - Limit of Disturbance. The area to be cleared, graded, etc.

MAG - New concrete nails are magnetic nails and are stamped with MAG on the head and are easier to find with metal detectors.

NPP - Nail in power pole

NTCFP - Nail on top of corner fence post

NTFP - Nail on top of fence post

PI - Point of intersection

PK - Point Known, PK nail

PK nail - A concrete nail made by Parker Kaelon, stamped PK, that marks a survey point. See also hub and tack.

SR - Steel rebar

SRS - Steel rod set (rebar or other steel)

WC - Witness corner




Vermont Statutes

VT Supreme Court Opinions Reports 161-169)

US Supreme Court Opinions to Present)

Cornell Law Library

Self Help Law

Self Help Law

VT Bar Association

VT Law School


Padding are passed to p, h1 and h3.









Michigan Center for Geographic Information

National Geodetic Survey (N.G.S.)

United States Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.)

Michigan Society of Professional Surveyors (M.S.P.S.)

Museum of Surveying in Michigan

American Congress on Surveying and Mapping

National Society of Professional Surveyors

Michigan Technological University Surveying Program

Ferris State University Surveying/Engineering Program








  • AMSA - Australian Maritime Safety Authority, marine DGPS service
  • EUROFIX - DGPS service via LORAN-C in Europe
  • NavCom StarFire DGPS service
  • Omnistar - Fugro's WADGPS service




  • Acre - The (English) acre is a unit of area equal to 43,560 square feet, or 10 square chains, or 160 square poles. It derives from a plowing area that is 4 poles wide and a furlong (40 poles) long. A square mile is 640 acres. The Scottish acre is 1.27 English acres. The Irish acre is 1.6 English acres.
  • Arpent - Unit of length and area used in France, Louisiana, and Canada. As a unit of length, approximately 191.8 feet (180 old French 'pied', or foot). The (square) arpent is a unit of area, approximately .845 acres, or 36,802 square feet.
  • Chain - Unit of length usually understood to be Gunter's chain, but possibly variant by locale. See also Rathbone's chain. The name comes from the heavy metal chain of 100 links that was used by surveyors to measure property bounds.
  • Colpa - Old Irish measure of land equal to that which can support a horse or cow for a year. Approximately an Irish acre of good land.
  • Compass - One toise.
  • Engineer's Chain - A 100 foot chaincontaining 100 links of one foot apiece.
  • Furlong - Unit of length equal to 40 poles (220 yards). Its name derives from "furrow long", the length of a furrow that oxen can plow before they are rested and turned. SeeGunter's chain.
  • Ground - A unit of area equal to 2400 sq. ft., or 220 sq. meters, used in India.
  • Gunter's Chain - Unit of length equal to 66 feet, or 4 poles. Developed by English polymath Edmund Gunter early in the 1600's, the standard measuring chain revolutionized surveying. Gunter's chain was 22 yards long, one tenth of a furlong, a common unit of length in the old days. An area one chain wide by ten chains long was exactly an acre. In 1595 Queen Elizabeth I had the mile redefined from the old Roman value of 5000 feet to 5280 feet in order for it to be an even number of furlongs. A mile is 80 chains.
  • Hectare - Metric unit of area equal to 10,000 square meters, or 2.471 acres, or 107,639 square feet.
  • Hide - A very old English unit of area, a hide was of variable size depending on locale and the quality of the land. It was the amount of land to support a family, and ranged from 60 to 180 acres. After the Norman conquest in 1066 it became standardized at around 120 acres.
  • Hundred - An adminstrative area larger than a village and smaller than a county. In England it was 100 hides in size, and the term was used for early settlements in Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware.
  • Labor - The labor is a unit of area used in Mexico and Texas. In Texas it equals 177.14 acres (or 1 million square varas).
  • League (legua) - Unit of area used in the southwest U.S., equal to 25 labors, or 4428 acres (Texas), or 4439 acres (California). Also, a unit of length-- approximately three miles.
  • Link - Unit of length equal to 1/100 chain (7.92 inches).
  • Morgen - Unit of area equal to about .6309 acres. It was used in Germany, Holland and South Africa, and was derived from the German word Morgen ("morning"). It represented the amount of land that could be plowed in a morning.
  • Out - An 'out' was ten chains. When counting out long lines, the chain carriers would put a stake at the end of a chain, move the chain and put a stake at the end, and so on until they ran "out" of ten stakes.
  • Perch - See pole .
  • Point - A point of the compass. There are four cardinal points (North, South, East, West), and 28 others yielding 32 points of 11.25 degrees each. A survey line's direction could be described as a compass point, as in "NNE" (north northeast). To improve precision, the points would be further subdivided into halves or quarters as necessary, for example, "NE by North, one quarter point North". In some areas, "and by" meant one half point, as in "NE and by North".
  • Pole - Unit of length and area. Also known as a perch or rod. As a unit of length, equal to 16.5 feet. A mile is 320 poles. As a unit of area, equal to a square with sides one pole long. An acre is 160 square poles. It was common to see an area referred to as "87 acres, 112 poles", meaning 87 and 112/160 acres.
  • Pueblo - A Spanish grant of less than 1000 acres.
  • Rancho - A Spanish grant of more than 1000 acres.
  • Rathbone's Chain - A measuring chain two poles, or 33 feet, in length.
  • Rod - See pole
  • Rood - Unit of area usually equal to 1/4 acre.
  • Toise - Traditional French unit of length equal to 6 old French 'pieds' or feet, or 6.4 English feet.
  • Vara - Unit of length (the "Spanish yard") used in the U.S. southwest. The vara is used throughout the Spanish speaking world and has values around 33 inches, depending on locale. The legal value in Texas was set to 33 1/3 inches early in the 1900's.
  • Virgate - An old English unit of area, equal to one quarter of a hide. The amount of land needed to support a person.