Révy Water Current Meter

Julien John Révy, an Austrian civil engineer living in England, designed this type of meter for his survey of the Panama and Uruguay rivers in South America begun in 1870. In his report on this project, Révy noted that “Messrs. Elliott Bros., of London, made our meters, and are acquainted with all requirements: they charge about ten guineas for the complete instrument.”
Elliott Bros. showed a Révy 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 Elliotts 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 came to the Smithsonian in 1955, a transfer from the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey. The dial is marked “ELLIOTT BROS LONDON” and the propeller shaft housing is marked “U. S. C. & G. S. NO. 1.” It has no glass cover. It may be the Révy meter that H. L. Marindin, a Coast Survey hydrographer, reported using in 1877.
Ref: J. J. Révy, Hydraulics of Great Rivers (London and New York, 1874), pp. 155-160 and plate VIII.
Catalogue of the Special Loan Collection of Scientific Apparatus (London, 1876), p. 77.
H. L. Marindin, “Description of an Apparatus Devised for Observing Currents in Connection with the Physical Survey of the Mississippi River,” Report of the Superintendent of the United States Coast Survey Showing the Progress of the work for the Fiscal Year Ending with June, 1877 (Washington, D.C., 1880), Appendix 9.
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.
date made
ca 1875
Elliott Brothers
place made
United Kingdom: England, London
overall: 9 1/4 in x 9 in x 2 in; 23.495 cm x 22.86 cm x 5.08 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Measuring & Mapping
Water Currents
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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