Sperry Product Innovation’s President, Laurence Sperry, is the great-grandson of famous inventor Elmer Sperry and grandnephew to Elmer’s son Lawrence Sperry, for whom he is named.
With the entrepreneurial spirit, insatiable curiosity and passion for making new things that he shares with his predecessors, Laurence Sperry established Sperry Product Innovation, Inc. in 1992. He has been granted over 30 patents to date and has several pending. True to his family tree, Laurence is an inventor, entrepreneur, and licensed pilot. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and children.
Elmer Sperry, born in 1860 in Cortland, New York, was an established inventor and brilliant engineer. He is best known for his contributions to naval navigation and is recognized worldwide for his many innovative contributions including: gyro-stabilization for navy ships, the gyrocompass, the first gyro-pilot system for ship’s steering known as Metal Mike, the first full-gun battery fire control system, electric trolley cars, high-intensity search lights, dynamos, railroad safety devices, and electric automobiles.
In addition to his inventive spirit and unquenchable curiosity for mechanical devices, he demonstrated true entrepreneurial know-how. Elmer Sperry is responsible for starting eight companies that made significant contributions to the American wartime effort as well as modern-day military and commercial transportation and many other areas of modern life. Several of these companies have evolved into giants in their industry today. Sperry Marine, a division of Northrup Grumman, Sperry Rand and Sperry Rail have their roots directly linked to Elmer’s original companies.
Elmer has over 350 patents to his credit and is considered the Father of Modern Navigational Technology. In recognition of his many contributions to the United States, the USS Sperry was named after him in 1941. Elmer Sperry died in 1930.
Lawrence Burst Sperry
Elmer’s son, Lawrence Burst Sperry, nicknamed Gyro, is best known for inventing the autopilot utilizing the concepts developed by his father for the gyroscope. His contributions to aviation also include gyro instruments for all-weather flight, the seat pack parachute, the aerial torpedo and the artificial horizon. Lawrence started the Lawrence Sperry Aircraft company in Farmingdale, New York and was granted over 20 patents. He was the first to fly at night and one of the first to make a recreational parachute jump.
Besides his brilliant engineering talent, Lawrence Sperry was equally well known in his day for his daring hobbies and carefree lifestyle. He is considered to be the founding member of the Mile High Club.
Lawrence Sperry was lost at sea when his M-1 Messenger went down in the English Channel on December 13, 1923. He was 31.
Place In History
Both Elmer and Lawrence Sperry hold an important place in American history, and both have been memorialized for their brilliance and contributions in the historical archives.
To learn more about these two fascinating men explore these resources:
- Elmer Sperry, Inventor and Engineer, by Thomas Parke Hughes, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1971
- Gyro! The Life and Times of Lawrence Sperry, by William Wyatt Davenport, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1978
- NY Times Online – “On This Day”, June 17, 1930
- Invent.org, “Ship’s Gyroscopic-Compass Set”, 1991
- Allstar Network, “Lawrence Sperry, Pioneer Aviator”, February 19, 2001