Atwood Machine

Atwood Machine

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
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.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Atwood Machine
Fortin et Herrmann
place made
France: Île-de-France, Paris
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 cm
overall (in case): 112 in x 35 in x 35 in; 284.48 cm x 88.9 cm x 88.9 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Science & Scientific Instruments
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

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.


Add a comment about this object