Elmer Ambrose Sperry

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Elmer Ambrose Sperry, Sr.
Elmer Ambrose Sperry.jpg
Born (1860-10-12)October 12, 1860
Cincinnatus, New York
Died June 16, 1930(1930-06-16) (aged 69)
Brooklyn, New York
Nationality United States
Education Cornell University
Known for gyroscopic compasses
Spouse(s) Zula Augusta Goodman (1860-1929) (m. 1887-1929)
Children Helen M. Sperry (1889–?)
Edward Goodman Sperry (1890-1945) [1]
Lawrence Burst Sperry (1892-1925)
Elmer Ambrose Sperry, Jr. (1894-1968) [2]
Parents Stephen Decatur Sperry (1825–1889)
Mary Borst (1839-1860)
Elmer Ambrose Sperry

Elmer Ambrose Sperry, Sr. (October 12, 1860 – June 16, 1930) was an American inventor and entrepreneur, most famous as co-inventor, with Herman Anschütz-Kaempfe of the gyrocompass.[3] His compasses and stabilizers were adopted by the United States Navy and used in both world wars.

Biography[edit]

Sperry was born at Cincinnatus, New York on October 12, 1860 to Stephen Decatur Sperry and Mary Burst. He was a descendant of Richard Sperry.[3] His mother died, the next day, October 13, 1860, from complications from his birth.

He spent three years at the state normal school in Cortland, New York, then a year at Cornell University in 1878 and 1879, where he became interested in dynamos. He moved to Chicago, Illinois, early in 1880 and, soon after founded the Sperry Electric Company.[3]

He married Zula Augusta Goodman (?-1929) in Chicago, Illinois on June 28, 1887.

In 1900 Sperry established an electrochemical laboratory at Washington, D.C., where he and his associate, Clifton P. Townshend, developed a process for making pure caustic soda and discovered a process for recovering tin from scrap metal.

Sperry experimented with diesel engines and gyroscopic compasses and gyroscopic stabilizers for ships and aircraft.

In 1910 he started the Sperry Gyroscope Company in Brooklyn, New York; his first compass was tested that same year in USS Delaware (BB-28).

In 1914 he won a prize from the Aero Club of France for his airplane stabilizer. He also was awarded a Franklin Institute Medal in the same year.[3]

In 1918 he produced a high-intensity arc lamp which was used as a searchlight by both the Army and Navy. After setting up eight companies and taking out over 400 patents.

In 1925, his son, Lawrence Burst Sperry (1892-1925), died in the North Sea in a crash in a plane of his own design.

In January 1929 he sold his Sperry Gyroscope Company to North American Aviation. That same year his wife died on March 31, 1930, in Havana, Cuba.[3]

He died at St. John's Hospital in Brooklyn, New York on June 16, 1930 from complications following the removal of gallstones six weeks earlier. He was 69 years old.[3]

Memberships[edit]

He was a member of the following groups:[3]

Awards[edit]

He was given the following awards:[3]

Companies[edit]

The companies eventually evolved into Sperry Marine [1]

Legacy[edit]

  • The Sperry Center building on the SUNY Cortland campus in Cortland, NY is named after him.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Edward G. Sperry, An Industrialist. Executive of Products Firm He Founded With Father, the Gyroscope Inventor, Dies. Designed Ship Stabilizers. Held Several Directorships". New York Times. November 8, 1945. Retrieved 2012-12-21. "Edward Goodman Sperry, vice president, treasurer and a director of Sperry Products, Inc., Hoboken, ..." 
  2. ^ Associated Press (December 24, 1968). "Elmer Sperry Jr., Inventor, Was 74. Son of the Founder of Gyroscope Company Dies". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-12-21. "Elmer Ambrose Sperry, Jr., a pioneer in gyroscope development and son of the founder of the Sperry Gyroscope Company, died here Saturday at the age ... He was born May 9, 1894, in Cleveland, a son of Elmer Sperry, Sr. and Zula ..." 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Elmer Sperry Dies. Famous Inventor". New York Times. June 17, 1930. Retrieved 2012-12-21. "Elmer A. Sperry, inventor, died yesterday morning at St. John's Hospital, Brooklyn, from complications which set in after he had recovered from an operation for gallstones six weeks ago. He was in his seventieth [sic] year." 

Further reading[edit]

  • Thomas P. Hughes, Elmer Sperry: Inventor and Engineer (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1971).
  • Fahrney, Delmer S. (RAdm ret): History of Radio-Controlled Aircraft and Guided Missiles
  • This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

External links[edit]