Airborne Magnetometer

Airborne Magnetometer

Usage conditions apply
The central element of this instrument is a fluxgate magnetometer, a magnetically sensitive element that has no moving parts and is thus not affected by acceleration. Victor Vacquier developed the fluxgate in 1940, while working for the Gulf Research and Development Company. Tests of the Gulf instrument were conducted in early 1941, in collaboration with the Sperry Gyroscope Co., and attracted the attention of the U.S. military establishment. By 1942, using funds provided by the National Defense Research Committee, Gulf had produced 14 magnetic airborne detectors (MADs) which the Navy used to detect enemy submarines. Although Soviet scientists had built an airborne magnetometer in the mid-1930s, these Gulf instruments were the first airborne magnetometers built in the U.S. The end of the War brought declassification of the project, a patent for Vacquier (#2,407,202), the use of the instrument for geophysical prospecting, and enormous publicity. This example is marked "MADE BY G.R. & D.C. PITTSBURGH, PA." The Gulf Research and Development Company donated it to the Smithsonian in 1964,
In operation, the electronic unit, the control box, the power unit, and the graphic recorder were mounted in an airplane, while the sensing element of the instrument was enclosed in a plastic "bird" (shown in the photograph) and towed behind.
Ref: Gary Muffly, "The Airborne Magnetometer," Geophysics 11 (1946): 321-334.
E. A. Eckhardt, "Airborne Magnetometer," The Oil and Gas Journal 45 (1946): 78-79, 91-92.
Homer Jensen and Eugene Peterson, "Prospecting from the Air," Scientific American 178 (January 1948): 24-26.
Currently not on view
Object Name
airborne magnetometer
Airborne Magnetometer
Gulf Research & Development Corp.
Place Made
United States: Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh
"bird": 56 in; x 142.24 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gulf Research & Development Company
Science & Scientific Instruments
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Measuring & Mapping
Science & Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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