Ewing Horizontal Pendulum Seismograph (part)

Of the several seismographs that he designed while teaching physics and engineering in Meiji Japan, James Alfred Ewing was particularly excited about the horizontal pendulum form, describing it as “novel” and “certainly far superior to the long pendulum seismograph in simplicity and cheapness of construction, ease of use, and accuracy of results.” In 1886, after his return to Scotland, Ewing boasted that his “seismographs have been in regular use at the University of Tokio since they were invented” and were “used for systematic observations by the Japanese Meteorological Bureau.” He also boasted that seismographs based on his designs were “sent by the Japanese Government to the Inventions Exhibition in London” and “awarded the highest diploma among Government exhibits.”
The Imperial Japanese Commission to the World’s Columbian Exposition sent an example to Chicago in 1893 and gave it to Smithsonian the following year. Only one of the two horizontal elements survives. This is a brass weight in the form of a truncated cone that is suspended over a flat triangular base, 8-inches on a side. It would have been attached to a pointer that would record the earth’s movements on a smoked glass plate.
Ref: James A. Ewing, “On a New Seismograph,” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 31 (1881): 440-446, illus. on 441.
James A. Ewing, “Seismometry in Japan,” Nature 35 (1886-87): 75-76.
Catalogue of Objects Exhibited at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, U.S.A., 1893 by the Department of Education, Japan (Tokyo, 1893), pp. 55-57.
George Browne Goode, The Smithsonian Institution 1846-1896. The History of Its First Half Century (Washington, D.C., 1897), vol. 3, pp. 547-548.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1892
place made
Nihon: Kanto, Tōkyō
overall: 8 1/8 in x 9 7/8 in x 8 1/2 in; 20.6375 cm x 25.0825 cm x 21.59 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
related event
World's Columbian Exposition
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Measuring & Mapping
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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