Inverted Pendulum Seismograph


Arthur J. Weed was a skilled mechanic who, as chief instrument maker of the U.S. Weather Bureau, built and maintained the seismograph that Charles Marvin had designed in 1895. Moving in 1920 to the Rouss Physical Laboratory at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Weed gained access to resources that allowed him to go further in this field. With the aid of engineering students, Weed built a inverted pendulum seismograph with a 750-pound weight. Photographs of Weed with this massive instrument ran as an A.P. story in several newspapers. One headline read: “Trapping earthquakes has become a popular business at the University of Virginia, where one of the most unique and sensitive seismographs in the country keeps a twenty-four hour watch for tremors.”

Weed also designed a smaller inverted pendulum seismograph that could “be used in many places where a more elaborate installation is out of the question.” One account described a cylindrical steady mass of about six pounds resting on three wires placed in the form of an equilateral triangle to which an oil damping device is attached.” This is an instrument of that sort. It came to the Smithsonian in 1963.

When Weed died in 1936, the chief seismologist of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey noted that “the science of seismology has lost one who has given much thought to instrumental problems, an active worker and a true friend.” The American Geophysical Union noted the loss of “a member who has long been active in the field of instrumental seismology.”

Ref: “Seismograph is Homemade,” Washington Post (July 10, 1927), p. 12, and Salt Lake Tribune (July 10, 1927), p. 10.

“Something New In Seismographs,” The Telegraph (May 4, 1932).

N. H. Heck, “Arthur J. Weed,” Science 83 (1936): 404.

Date Made: ca 1930

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: Virginia, Charlottesville

See more items in: Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences, Seismographs, Science & Mathematics, Measuring & Mapping


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: University of Virginia. Department of Physics

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: PH.323393Catalog Number: 323393Accession Number: 251562

Object Name: seismograph

Measurements: overall: 22 in x 6 1/2 in; 55.88 cm x 16.51 cmoverall: 21 7/16 in x 6 3/8 in; 54.45125 cm x 16.1925 cm


Record Id: nmah_1414062

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