Short-Period Galvanometer (WWSSN)

Each of the 120 stations in the World Wide Standard Seismological Network had three short-period galvanometers, one for each of its three short-period Benioff seismometers (such as 1999.0275.01 and 1999.0275.02). This example is marked “Geotechnical Corp. / Garland, Texas Stand / Model 8480 / 9799.” It was used at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Established in the early 1960s, the WWSSN was a key component of VELA Uniform, a Cold War project that was funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), a branch of the Department of Defense. The WWSSN was designed to detect underground nuclear tests and generate valuable information about the earth’s interior and its dynamic processes. It was managed by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey and then by the U.S. Geological Survey. That agency transferred this instrument to the Smithsonian in 1999.
Incorporated in 1936, the Geotechnical Corporation conducted research in and produced instruments for the earth sciences. The firm got into defense work after World War II, went public in 1962, and was bought by Teledyne in 1965.
Ref: Hugo Benioff, “Electrical Recording Seismograph,” U.S. Patent 1,784,415 (1930).
Hugo Benioff, “Earthquake Seismographs and Associated Instruments,” in H. E. Landsberg, ed., Advances in Geophysics (New York, 1955), vol. 2, p. 234.
United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, Instrumentation of the World-Wide Seismograph System, Model 10700 (Washington, D.C., 1962).
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Geotechnical Corporation
overall: 29 cm x 22.8 cm; 11 13/32 in x 8 31/32 in
place made
United States: Texas, Garland
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
related event
Cold War
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Measuring & Mapping
Science & Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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