Elmer Ambrose Sperry
|Elmer Ambrose Sperry, Sr.|
October 12, 1860|
Cincinnatus, New York
|Died||June 16, 1930
Brooklyn, New York
|Known for||gyroscopic compasses|
|Spouse(s)||Zula Augusta Goodman (1860-1929) (m. 1887-1929)|
|Children||Helen M. Sperry (1889–?)
Edward Goodman Sperry (1890-1945) 
Lawrence Burst Sperry (1892-1925)
Elmer Ambrose Sperry, Jr. (1894-1968) 
|Parent(s)||Stephen Decatur Sperry (1825–1889)
Mary Borst (1839-1860)
|Awards||John Fritz Medal (1927)
Elliott Cresson Medal (1929)
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. His compasses and stabilizers were adopted by the United States Navy and used in both world wars. He also worked closely with Japanese companies and the Japanese government and was honored after his death with a biography in his honor.
Sperry was born at Cincinnatus, New York on October 12, 1860 to Stephen Decatur Sperry and Mary Burst. He was of English ancestry. His family had been in what is now the Northeastern United States since the 1600s, and his earliest American ancestor was an English colonist named Richard Sperry. His mother died the next day, 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. He married Zula Augusta Goodman (?-1929) in Chicago, Illinois on June 28, 1887.
He drove the first American-made car in Paris in 1896.
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 founded 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. 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 1923, his son, Lawrence Burst Sperry (1892-1923), died in the North Sea in the crash of an airplane of his own design. In January 1929 he sold his Sperry Gyroscope Company to North American Aviation. The following year his wife died on March 31, in Havana, Cuba.
He was a member of the following groups:
- Founder and charter member of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers
- Founder and charter member of the American Electro-Chemical Society
- American Association for the Advancement of Science
- American Physical Society
- American Society of Mechanical Engineers
- Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers
- New York Electrical Society
- American Petroleum Institute
- Edison Pioneers
- National Aeronautical Association
- Aero Club of America
- Engineers' Club
- National Electric Light Association
- Franklin Institute
- Japan Society
- Director of the Museum of the Peaceful Arts
He was given the following awards:
- Aero Club of France (1914) for his airplane stabilizer
- Franklin Institute Medal (1914)
- Collier Trophy (1915)
- Collier Trophy (1916)
- Holley Medal (1927)
- John Fritz Medal (1927)
- Albert Gary Medal (1927)
- Elliott Cresson Medal from the Franklin Institute (1929)
- Two decorations from the last Czar of Russia; two decorations from the Emperor of Japan, the Order of the Rising Sun and the Order of the Sacred Treasure; and the grand prize of the Panama Exposition.
- Sperry Electric Mining Machine Company, (1888);
- Sperry Electric Railway Company, (1894);
- Chicago Fuse Wire Company, (1900); and
- Sperry Rail Service (1911) a rail defect detection company.
- Sperry Gyroscope Company (1910), founded to manufacture Sperry's development of the gyrocompass, originally invented by Herman Anschütz-Kaempfe in 1908. Sperry's first model was installed on the battleship USS Delaware in 1911.
The companies eventually evolved into Sperry Marine 
- Sperry was also a founding member of the US Naval Consulting Board, 1915.
- In 1916, Sperry joined Peter Hewitt to develop the Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane, one of the first successful precursors of the UAV.
- USS Sperry (AS-12) was named for him, as was the annual Elmer A. Sperry Award for Advancing the Art of Transportation.
- The Sperry Center building on the SUNY Cortland campus in Cortland, NY is named after him.
- "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, ...
- 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 ...
- "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 year.
- Durgin, Russell and Kawaguchi, Zenichi, "Dr. Sperry As We Knew Him," (1931, Nichi-Bei Press). This volume of reminiscences by the Japanese engineers and diplomats who knew him was published in a bilingual text.
- 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.
- Elmer A. Sperry case file at the Franklin Institute contains records concerning his 1914 Franklin Award for the gyroscopic compass
- U.S. Patent 1,279,471 for the gyroscopic compass, filed June, 1911; issued September, 1918
- US patent search page, search for Elmer and Sperry in Inventor name, 1790-present, yields about 160 results—some recent ones are by EA Sperry Jr, earliest ones not found
- Elmer Ambrose Sperry at Find a Grave
- Finding aids for the Elmer Ambrose Sperry papers and the Elmer Sperry photograph collection are available at Hagley Museum and Library.