A new instrument, the liquid point diffraction interferometer (LCPDI), has been developed for the measurement of phase objects. This instrument maintains the compact, robust design of Linnik's point diffraction interferometer and adds to it phase stepping capability for quantitative interferogram analysis. The result is a compact, simple to align, environmentally insensitive interferometer capable of accurately measuring optical wavefronts with high data density and with automated data reduction. The design of the LCPDI is briefly discussed. An algorithm is presented for eliminating phase measurement error caused by object beam intensity variation from frame-to-frame. The LCPDI is demonstrated by measuring the temperature distribution across a heated chamber filled with silicone oil. The measured results are compared to independently measured results and show excellent agreement with them. It is expected that this instrument will have application in the fluid sciences as a diagnostic tool, particularly is space based applications where autonomy, robustness, and compactness are desirable qualities. It should also be useful for the testing of optical elements, provided a master is available for comparison.