Westover Teaching Machine


During the 1940s, Frederick Lowell Westover (1900-2003), then a graduate student at Teachers College of Columbia University, developed this machine to study changes in reading speed and comprehension among college students. He wanted to know whether those using the machine learned to read faster and better than students who read exercises in a regular manner. He found the machine quite crude but thought it might be improved. Westover would go on to teach for twelve years at Brooklyn College in New York and then spend twenty-three years at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa.

The machine has a steel exterior painted black with a gray steel lid. A rectangle cut in the lid has a sliding piece under it. A slot in the rectangle reveals a line of text in one of the scrolls which fits within the machine. The exterior also has a switch and two knobs on the left, four rubber feet, and a cord. This cord extends from the back of the instrument and has been stored in it. The cord is in poor condition.

Inside the machine on the left is a motor, lined by transmission gears, and a driving roller, which turns at a rate determined by a rheostat. Also in the machine is a place for scroll, a steel shelf over which the scroll passes, and a take-up roller. A rewind crank fits into the right side but is stored in the case.

A plate attached to the front of the machine reads: ASSOCIATED (/) EXPERIMENTAL (/) LABORATORIES (/) BROOKLYN NEW YORK (/) SERIAL W3 (/) VOLTS 110 AC-DC WATTS.

For related objects, see a group of scrolls used to present exercises (1993.0182.02) and a copy of Westover’s dissertation (1993.0189.03).


Accession file 1993.0189.

Date Made: 1944

Maker: Westover, Frederick L.

Location: Currently not on view

Subject: Psychology


See more items in: Medicine and Science: Mathematics, Teaching Machines


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of Frederick L. Westover

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1993.0189.01Catalog Number: 1993.0189.01Accession Number: 1993.0189

Object Name: Teaching Machine

Measurements: average spatial: 14.1 cm x 46 cm x 33.7 cm; 5 9/16 in x 18 1/8 in x 13 9/32 in

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746b5-1e14-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_1138356

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