Atwood Machine


George Atwood, a mathematics tutor at Trinity College, Cambridge, described this type of instrument in 1784, explaining its use for verifying the laws of motion with constant acceleration. The Atwood machine soon became a common piece of classroom apparatus, suitable for teaching classical mechanics.

This example was used at the U.S. Military Academy. The “Fortin et Herrmann Genre à Paris” inscription refers to Adolphe and Émile Fortin-Herrmann, brothers who, in 1831, took over the shop of their grandfather, Nicholas Fortin, a leading scientific instrument maker in Paris.

Ref: George Atwood, A Treatise on the Rectilinear Motion and Rotation of Bodies, with a Description of Original Experiments Relative to the Subject (Cambridge, 1784).

Daniel Grand, “Notice Nécrologique sur Adolphe et Émile Fortin-Herrmann,” Mémoires et Compte-rendus de la Société des Ingénieurs Civils de France (1908): 692-700.

Maker: Fortin et Herrmann

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: France: Île-de-France, Paris

Subject: Science & Scientific Instruments


See more items in: Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: U.S. Military Academy

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: PH.315758Catalog Number: 315758Accession Number: 217544

Object Name: Atwood Machine

Measurements: overall (object): 98 1/2 in x 25 3/4 in x 25 3/4 in; 250.19 cm x 65.405 cm x 65.405 cmoverall (in case): 112 in x 35 in x 35 in; 284.48 cm x 88.9 cm x 88.9 cm


Record Id: nmah_1865665

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.