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Elmer Sperry: Gyroscopic Compass, 1914

Coming into Conflict

A perusal of the documents contained in Sperry's case file brings to light a dispute over the originality of the design for his compass. Sperry champions the integrity of his original, insisting that he has improved upon other attempts made to fashion such a compass. Such improvement is the hallmark of Sperry's work. Speaking on his "inventive technique," the inventor revealed that his method entailed pinpointing the weaknesses of other inventions, and then working out ways to overcome those weaknesses. The clever inventor would point out:

"Necessity is the mother of invention, so the reverse would also seem to be true, each development in science and engineering necessitating the development of some device or devices to increase the efficiency of the prime development."

In response to a letter sent from the Franklin Institute on May 18, 1914, Anschutz-Kaempfe's German company challenged the originality of Sperry's "improvements" on the gyrocompass. The thumbnails at top right include the company's letter of June 18, 1914, in which the Anschutz company denies that Sperry's methods of suspension and of damping oscillations resulting from outside forces are "special improvements."

Thumbnails linking to images of The Franklin Institute's May 1914 letter are also included here. Sperry's response to the allegations of Anschutz-Kaempfe's company can be seen as well, included in a letter penned to the Franklin Institute on June 30, 1914.

Finally, the thumbnails at bottom right link to letters sent between The Franklin Institute and Sperry, in which Sperry is questioned about and defends the originality of several aspects of his gyroscope.