Schweydar-Bamberg Torsion Balance

Torsion balances are used to measure weak natural forces. Torsion balances generally consist of a straight rod with masses attached to each end, suspended from a wire. It is then encased in metal to isolate it from temperature or wind disturbance. All mass near or far has an influence on the rod, but the wire resists this force and twists in the opposite direction, producing through its twisting the measurements of the forces imposed upon it.
The Humble Oil and Refining Co. purchased this photographic torsion balance in 1926—this was just four years after Americans began making gravimetric surveys for prospecting purposes—and used it for oil exploration in Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama until the introduction of gravimeters in 1936. Although this instrument has no signature, it was probably made by Askania, in Friedenau, Germany. Askania opened a sales office in Houston, Texas in the 1920s.
The Schweydar Bamberg instrument is an Eötvös torsion balance with a photographic arrangement for recording the results automatically. The form was described in 1921 by Wilhelm Schweydar, a German geophysicist, and produced by Carl Bamberg. It was publicized in the United States by C. A. Heiland, a German geophysicist who worked for Askania in Houston and who taught at the Colorado School of Mines.
Ref: Askania Bulletin Geo 103E
W. Schweydar, "Die Photographische registrierende Eötvössche Torsionswage der Firma Carl Bamberg in Berlin-Friedenau," Zeitschrift fur Instrumentendekunde 41 (1921): 175-183.
C. A. Heiland, "Schweydar-Bamberg Types of Eötvös Torsion Balance" Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists 10 (1926): 1201-1209.
C. A. Heiland, Directions for the Use of the Askania Torsion Balance (Houston, 1933).
Currently not on view
date made
place made
overall: 152 cm x 50 cm x 54 cm; 59 27/32 in x 19 11/16 in x 21 1/4 in
overall: 67 in x 27 in x 27 in; 170.18 cm x 68.58 cm x 68.58 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Humble Oil and Refining Company
See more items in
Work and Industry: Agriculture and Natural Resources
Measuring & Mapping
Natural Resources
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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