Gyroscope - History of Gyroscope

Gyroscope

Important for the measurement of orientation and motion, gyroscopes are essentially built through the combination of a top and gimbal pair. A gimbal is a structure that allows an object to rotate around a single axis. Multiple gimbal's can be used to identify and measure multiple axes.

John Serson invented the first gyroscope, nicknamed the whirling speculum, in 1743. In bad weather, he used the apparatus as a level to identify the horizon. Numerous other advancements on this model continued to develop independently throughout the 19th century.

One of these advancements assisted in the measurement of the Earth's rotation. Leon Foucault successfully used the gyroscope in 1852 in this scientific endeavor, and he was able to measure the Earth's rotation for a full 8-10 minutes, before it yielded to the forces of friction. Foucault is also known for providing the instrument with the gyroscope title based on Greek language roots.

The invention of electric motors allowed for the indefinite spinning of the gyroscopes gimbal pairs, which led to a variety of significant developments for the instruments. This included the addition of a gyrocompass in 1904, which was soon used by militaries across the world for navigational purposes.

By World War II the gyroscope was a main component on aircrafts, as it assisted in the navigation of gun sights and targets. After the war, developments to reduce the size of gyroscopes were invented for use on missiles. These weighed less than 3 ounces, but could revolve more than 24,000 times a minute!

Today, three axis gyroscopes are used in numerous portable electronic devices including cellphones, watches, and tables. The addition of this technology allows for the motion sensing and screen movement along multiple axes familiar to users of most touchscreen devices.

Although gyroscopes were originally designed for academic calculations regarding positioning and movement, the use of gyroscopes today is more for entertainment and enjoyment achieved from modern technology. As this technology continues to develop, new and interesting uses for the gyroscope will continue to be identified and employed to advance the gadgets of the future.

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