Révy Water Current Meter

“Messrs. Elliott Bros., of London, made our meters, and are acquainted with all requirements: they charge about ten guineas for the complete instrument.” So wrote Julien John Révy, an Austrian civil engineer living in England, in his 1874 account of his survey of the Panama and Uruguay rivers in South America.
Elliott Bro. showed a Révy water current meter at the Special Loan Collection of Scientific Instruments held in London in 1876, noting that it was made “for measuring the velocity of currents in large rivers.” The firm went on to explain that “The spherical boss is so determined that it will displace just as much water, as to weight, as will balance the weight of all the parts which are fixed to the spindle, so as to reduce friction to a minimum. Although the apparatus is covered with glass, it has to be filled, before using it, with pure water to establish similarity of pressure inside and outside. After every experiment the water is removed and the spindle thoroughly dried.”
This example is marked “Elliott Bros. London.” The U.S. Geological Survey transferred it to the Smithsonian in 1916.
William Elliott began in business in London in the early 1800s, making and selling mathematical instruments. Following his death in 1853, his sons, Frederick and Charles, began trading as Elliott Brothers, and were soon offering a wide range of instruments for engineering and industry. The Elliotts’ involvement with water current meters probably began in 1856 when they acquired Watkins & Hill, a London firm that made meters according to the designs introduced by Joseph Saxton in 1836. Elliott Brothers was absorbed into what became BAE Systems in 1988. Its archives are now in the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford.
Ref: J. J. Révy, Hydraulics of Great Rivers (London and New York, 1874), appendix, “The Improved Current Meter, and Its Applications.”
Catalogue of the Special Loan Collection of Scientific Apparatus (London, 1876), p. 77.
Arthur H. Frazier, Water Current Meters in the Smithsonian Collections of the National Museum of History and Technology (Washington, D.C., 1974), pp. 50-51.
Currently not on view
Object Name
water current meter
date made
Elliott Brothers
place made
United Kingdom: England, London
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Measuring & Mapping
Water Currents
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Water Currents
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
U.S. Geological Survey

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