Timby Mercury Barometer

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Theodore Ruggles Timby (1822-1909) was an American inventor with several hundred patents to his name, the most famous of which pertained to the rotating gun turret as used on the “Monitor” during the Civil War. The first of his two barometer patents, issued in 1857, described an instrument in which the expansion of mercury with increase of temperature would not burst the tube. Scientific American praised Timby for having “succeeded in rendering this instrument perfectly portable,” going to predict “a speedy and universal adoption, especially among agriculturists, they more than any other class (save the mariners), need the counsel of this faithful monitor which leaves nothing to conjecture, but tells with promptness of the coming storm long before a threatening is visible in the sky.”
This example is marked “ALEXR MARSH SOLE PROPRIETORS and Manfs. For the UNITED STATES, OFFICE UNION BLOCK Worcester, Mass. TIMBY’S PATENT, Nov. 3rd 1857” as well as “The fall of the mercury indicates a STORM. The rise of the mercury indicates fair WEATHER.” The barometer scale extends from 27 to 31 inches of mercury. The attached alcohol-in-glass thermometer is graduated from -40 to +185 degrees Fahrenheit. It was probably made in the early 1860s.
Ref: Theodore R. Timby, “Barometer,” U.S. Patent 18,560 (1857).
“Another Important Step in Science,” Scientific American 14 (1858): 101.
Currently not on view
date made
Marsh, Alexander
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Worcester
overall: 39 1/4 in x 3 5/8 in x 2 1/4 in; 99.695 cm x 9.2075 cm x 5.715 cm
ID Number
accession number
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Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Measuring & Mapping
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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