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Elmer Ambrose Sperry

After attending Cornell University in 1879-80, Sperry invented an improved electric generator and arc light and opened an electric company in Chicago. He invented 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 and WWII. Sperry also developed an aircraft searchlight and the world's first guided missile. His gyroscopic work resulted in the automatic pilot in 1930. 

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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Last modified: May 18, 2009