Binnacle and compass, 1876 by William Thomson

Binnacle and compass, 1876

William Thomson

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Binnacle and compass, 1876

This is an early example of a compass and binnacle patented in 1876 (patent no. 1339) by Sir William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) to overcome one of the main navigational problems of the 19th century. The growing use of iron in the construction of ships affected the accuracy of the compass, as attraction by the iron caused compass needles to deviate from magnetic north in unpredictable ways. In response, the Scottish mathematician and physicist Sir William Thomson (1824-1907) developed a new compass housing, or binnacle, to overcome this problem. Thomson's patent included: incorporating corrector magnets and iron spheres to counteract the effects of the ship's iron; a light card with small needles, which was less subject to oscillation and wear than the cards previously used; and improved gimbals to keep the compass level.
Sir William Thomson

  • Image reference: C9296

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