This most attractive example is in the apparatus collection at Bowdoin College. It has no maker’s name and is about 40 cm high.
The gyroscope was invented in 1852 by the French experimental physicist Leon Foucault (1819-1868) as part of a two-pronged investigation of the rotation of the earth. The better-known demonstration of the Foucault pendulum showed that the plane of rotation of a freely-swinging pendulum rotated with a period that depends on the latitude of its location.
His gyroscope was a rapidly rotating disk with a heavy rim, mounted in low-friction gimbals. As the earth rotated beneath the gyroscope, it would maintain its orientation in space. This proved to be hard to do in practice because the frictional forces bring the spinning system to rest before the effect could be observed. The gimbal bearings also introduce unwanted torque. But, the principle is well-known to all children who move their toy gyroscopes about and observe that the spinning disk stays in the same orientation.
The two gyroscopes below at at Cornell University, and both are listed in the 1890 catalogue of Ducretet of Paris. The one on the left is clearly the same as the one above from Marietta College, and shows that Queen imported that apparatus and did not manufacture it. It cost 75 francs, about $15. The gyroscope at the right was designed by Sire; other wire guides were a flat spiral and an S-shaped one. This cost 50 francs, or $10.
This large lecture table gyroscope at Dartmouth College is unmarked. I can testify to its weight; when I removed it from its storage cabinet and carried it out to be photograph it in June 2001, I was fairly staggered. Clearly a good deal of rotational kinetic energy can be stored in its flyweel.
The other phenomenon commonly associated with the gyroscope is precession under the influence of a gravitational torque. I often use the gyroscope shown at the right for demonstrations in my classes at Kenyon College. The design is that of Julius Plücker 1801-1868 and Friedrich Fessel 1821- ca. 1860. Depending on the location of the counter- weight, the system rotates to the right or to the left.
This apparatus was made by Ritchie of Boston sometime after 1881. The aluminum nut holding on the counterweight is obviously a replacement.
The Plücker and Fessel gyroscope below at the left in the Kenyon College collection is by the Scientific Apparatus Company of Yonkers, New York, and is probably from the nineteen twenties. It has the advantage that it is electrically driven.The original cost was $38.00.
The gyroscope at the right is from St. Marys College in Notre Dame, Indiana. It is listed at $6.75 in the 1912 catalogue of the C. H. Stoelting Co. of Chicago.
The unmarked Plücker and Fessel gyroscope at the right in in the Garland Collection of Classic Physics Apparatus at Vanderbilt University,
|This amazing gyroscope is by Queen of Philadelphia, and is in the collection of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York.
The Plücker and Fessel mechanism sitting in front can be used on its stand, or it can be placed on top of the balanced stand at the top of the main apparatus. This base is the same as the Ritchie Plücker and Fessel gyroscope in the Kenyon collection that is shown above.
“Gyrascope [sic]; mounted on gimbals, and supported upon a balanced frame; the persistency of the wheel to revolve in the same plane as it is turned around the centre, beautifully shows the motions of the earth around the sun; a small weight attached to one of the axes, illustrates the precession of the equinoxes; brass wheel 4 inches diameter …$15.00″
This counterbalanced gyroscope at Davidson College helped me solve a mystery. In the collection at Kenyon College is a Tellurian, which is a model for the earth-moon system. It is exactly like the Bohnenberger’s apparatus, except that the brass wheel and its accompanying gimbals has been replaced by an ivory billiard ball. At some time in the past the apparatus has been modified.
Later I discovered the same counterbalanced gyroscope in the collection of the physics department at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. This time I took a better picture!
The unmarked gyroscope below dates from the first part of the twentieth century, and is in the apparatus collection at Westminster College in western Pennsylvania. The gyroscope is spun up to speed with arrangement on the left-hand side, where the cranked wheel is in contact with a small wheel on the axis of the rotor. The driving wheel is then disengaged, as in the right-hand picture, and the system will precess.
An earlier form of the gyroscope is Bohnenberger’s Apparatus, which dates of 1817.REF: Thomas B. Greenslade, Jr., “Gyroscopic Control of Hovercraft”, Phys. Teach., 31, 4-5 (1993)