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Elmer Sperry: Gyroscopic Compass, 1914

Putting a Damper on Things

In order to compensate for movements of the ship that would cause the gyroscopic compass to deflect, Sperry produced an automatic correcting apparatus, which he incorporated into the structure of the compass. The apparatus compensated for and automatically entered the components of the deflection. These components are the meridianal element of the course, the speed upon such a course, and the latitude. The compensation for these components was done in strict proportion to their several magnitudes. The readings were thus held exactly upon the meridian, and oscillation was dampened. In order to keep the gyro constantly spinning, Sperry added an electric motor, inspired by the work he had done with electricity earlier in his career.

By the mid-1920s, Sperry was world famous for the applications of his gyroscope to ships, and also to airplanes. The Sperry Gyroscope Company he founded in Brooklyn supplied the world's navies with gyrocompasses, having earned a reputation for precision in manufacture, research and development.

Scores of articles were written to celebrate Sperry's inventions, and to explain their function to the public. Examine several such articles by clicking on the thumbnails at right. The first appeared in a 1912 edition of the New York Tribune; the others in a 1911 and 1913 Scientific American Supplement.