Sperry, Elmer Ambrose

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b. 21 October 1860 Cincinnatus, Cortland County, New York, USA
d. 16 June 1930 Brooklyn, New York, USA
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American entrepreneur who invented the gyrocompass.
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Sperry was born into a farming community in Cortland County. He received a rudimentary education at the local school, but an interest in mechanical devices was aroused by the agricultural machinery he saw around him. His attendance at the Normal School in Cortland provided a useful theoretical background to his practical knowledge. He emerged in 1880 with an urge to pursue invention in electrical engineering, then a new and growing branch of technology. Within two years he was able to patent and demonstrate his arc lighting system, complete with its own generator, incorporating new methods of regulating its output. The Sperry Electric Light, Motor and Car Brake Company was set up to make and market the system, but it was difficult to keep pace with electric-lighting developments such as the incandescent lamp and alternating current, and the company ceased in 1887 and was replaced by the Sperry Electric Company, which itself was taken over by the General Electric Company.
In the 1890s Sperry made useful inventions in electric mining machinery and then in electric street-or tramcars, with his patent electric brake and control system. The patents for the brake were important enough to be bought by General Electric. From 1894 to 1900 he was manufacturing electric motor cars of his own design, and in 1900 he set up a laboratory in Washington, where he pursued various electrochemical processes.
In 1896 he began to work on the practical application of the principle of the gyroscope, where Sperry achieved his most notable inventions, the first of which was the gyrostabilizer for ships. The relatively narrow-hulled steamship rolled badly in heavy seas and in 1904 Ernst Otto Schuck, a German naval engineer, and Louis Brennan in England began experiments to correct this; their work stimulated Sperry to develop his own device. In 1908 he patented the active gyrostabilizer, which acted to correct a ship's roll as soon as it started. Three years later the US Navy agreed to try it on a destroyer, the USS Worden. The successful trials of the following year led to widespread adoption. Meanwhile, in 1910, Sperry set up the Sperry Gyroscope Company to extend the application to commercial shipping.
At the same time, Sperry was working to apply the gyroscope principle to the ship's compass. The magnetic compass had worked well in wooden ships, but iron hulls and electrical machinery confused it. The great powers' race to build up their navies instigated an urgent search for a solution. In Germany, Anschütz-Kämpfe (1872–1931) in 1903 tested a form of gyrocompass and was encouraged by the authorities to demonstrate the device on the German flagship, the Deutschland. Its success led Sperry to develop his own version: fortunately for him, the US Navy preferred a home-grown product to a German one and gave Sperry all the backing he needed. A successful trial on a destroyer led to widespread acceptance in the US Navy, and Sperry was soon receiving orders from the British Admiralty and the Russian Navy.
In the rapidly developing field of aeronautics, automatic stabilization was becoming an urgent need. In 1912 Sperry began work on a gyrostabilizer for aircraft. Two years later he was able to stage a spectacular demonstration of such a device at an air show near Paris.
Sperry continued research, development and promotion in military and aviation technology almost to the last. In 1926 he sold the Sperry Gyroscope Company to enable him to devote more time to invention.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
John Fritz Medal 1927. President, American Society of Mechanical Engineers 1928.
Bibliography
Sperry filed over 400 patents, of which two can be singled out: 1908. US patent no. 434,048 (ship gyroscope); 1909. US patent no. 519,533 (ship gyrocompass set).
Further Reading
T.P.Hughes, 1971, Elmer Sperry, Inventor and Engineer, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press (a full and well-documented biography, with lists of his patents and published writings).
LRD

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Sperry,Elmer Ambrose — Sper·ry (spĕrʹē), Elmer Ambrose. 1860 1930. American engineer and inventor of numerous electrical devices, including the gyrocompass, a nonmagnetic navigational aid (1910). * * * …   Universalium

  • Sperry, Elmer Ambrose — ▪ American inventor baptized Oct. 12, 1860, Cortland, N.Y., U.S. died June 16, 1930, Brooklyn, N.Y.       versatile American inventor and industrialist, best known for his gyroscopic compasses and stabilizers.       As a boy, Sperry developed a… …   Universalium

  • Sperry, Elmer (Ambrose) — born Oct. 12, 1860, Cortland, N.Y., U.S. died June 16, 1930, Brooklyn, N.Y. U.S. inventor and industrialist. He opened his own factory in Chicago at the age of 20 to make dynamos and arc lamps. He designed an electrical industrial locomotive and… …   Universalium

  • Sperry, Elmer (Ambrose) — (12 oct. 1860, Cortland, N.Y., EE.UU.–16 jun. 1930, Brooklyn, N.Y.). Inventor e industrial estadounidense. Abrió su propia fábrica en Chicago a la edad de 20 años para hacer dinamos y lámparas de arco voltaico. Diseñó una locomotora industrial… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Elmer Ambrose Sperry — (* 12. Oktober 1860 in Cortland, New York; † 16. Juni 1930 in Brooklyn, New York) war ein US amerikanischer Erfinder und Geschäftsmann. Leben 1880 gründete er in Chicago die Sperry Electric Company, die sich mit der Herstellung von Generatoren… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Elmer Ambrose Sperry — Infobox Engineer image size = 150px caption = PAGENAME name = PAGENAME nationality = United States birth date = October 12, 1860 birth place = Cortland, New York death date = June 16, 1930 death place = Brooklyn, New York education =Cornell… …   Wikipedia

  • Elmer Ambrose Sperry — noun United States engineer and inventor of the gyrocompass (1860 1930) • Syn: ↑Sperry • Instance Hypernyms: ↑inventor, ↑discoverer, ↑artificer, ↑engineer, ↑applied scientist, ↑technologist …   Useful english dictionary

  • Sperry Rand — Sperry Corporation (1910–1986) war ein großes amerikanisches Unternehmen, das unter anderem Elektronikartikel, Computer, Landmaschinen und Hydraulikausrüstungen herstellte. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Firmengeschichte 1.1 Anfänge 1.2 Sperry Rand 1.3 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Sperry Rand Corporation — Sperry Corporation (1910–1986) war ein großes amerikanisches Unternehmen, das unter anderem Elektronikartikel, Computer, Landmaschinen und Hydraulikausrüstungen herstellte. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Firmengeschichte 1.1 Anfänge 1.2 Sperry Rand 1.3 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Sperry Univac — Sperry Corporation (1910–1986) war ein großes amerikanisches Unternehmen, das unter anderem Elektronikartikel, Computer, Landmaschinen und Hydraulikausrüstungen herstellte. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Firmengeschichte 1.1 Anfänge 1.2 Sperry Rand 1.3 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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