B.F. Skinner's Nose Cone of a Pigeon-Guided Missile

During World War II, the U.S. military needed to find accurate ways to guide missiles to their targets. University of Minnesota psychologist B. F. Skinner suggested that a missile nose cone be supplied with three compartments, each with a window. A pigeon would be placed in each section, and trained to peck on the window when the target appeared. If all three pigeons pecked, the weapon would be released. This prototype was never developed, but influenced later work on animal training.
For a discussion of the instrument, see James Capshew, “Engineering Behavior: Project Pigeon, World War II, and the Conditioning of B. F. Skinner,” Technology and Culture, Vol. 34, No. 4, Special Issue: Biomedical and Behavioral Technology (Oct., 1993), pp. 835-857.
Currently not on view
Object Name
psychological apparatus
Skinner, B. F.
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
wood (overall material)
overall: 64 cm x 57 cm x 58.5 cm; 25 3/16 in x 22 7/16 in x 23 1/16 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Science & Mathematics
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of B. F. Skinner
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