Elmer A. Sperry

1860-1930

After graduating from the Cortland, N.Y. Normal School in 1880, Elmer Sperry had an association with Professor William A. Anthony at Cornell, where he helped wire its first generator. From that experience he conceived his initial invention, an improved electrical generator and arc light.

He then opened an electric company in Chicago and continued to invent major improvements in electric mining equipment, locomotives, streetcars and an electric automobile. He developed gyroscopic stabilizers for ships and aircraft, a successful marine gyro-compass and gyro-controlled steering and fire control systems used on Allied warships during World War I. Sperry also developed an aircraft searchlight and the world’s first guided missile.

By the time of his death in 1930, Sperry held more than 400 patents. In 1933, the Sperry Gyroscope Company would become the Sperry Corporation, which manufactured computers, precision instruments and controls, farm machinery, and electric and hydraulic equipment. After multiple mergers and takeovers, the company today is part of technology giant Unisys.

The Elmer A. Sperry Award was established in 1955 to encourage progress in transportation engineering.

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