Lawrence Burst Sperry

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Lawrence Burst "Gyro" Sperry (22 Dec 1892 – 11 Jan 1924), son of Elmer Ambrose Sperry, was an aero inventor and aviator. He continued his father's work on gyroscopes stabilization. The two worked at the Sperry Gyroscope Company in Brooklyn, New York.

With Glenn Curtiss, Sperry developed a gyroscopic airplane stabilizer in 1913 for the U.S. Navy. His device used one gyroscope for vertical stability and another for horizontal. He demonstrated an airplane equipped with the stabilizer at the Concours de la Securité en Aéroplane, held by the Aero Club de France in Bezons in June 1914. Here, Sperry first flew past the judge's stand with the airplane on "autopilot" and his hands in the air. Next, he flew with no hands and his engineer Emil Cachin standing on the wing. Finally, he flew again, this time with Cachin standing on one wing and himself on the other, with the airplane maintaining a steady course.[1][2]

Sperry crashed while testing a new airplane in March 1918 and developed a backpack parachute while recovering.[1] One crash was associated with a scandal: [1]

We have Lawrence Burst Sperry at the specific address 1505 Albemarle road, Brooklyn, in the county of Kings and the State of New York and the Lawrence Sperry Aircraft Company or the Lawrence Sperry Aircraft Company, Inc. situated in New York City, NY.[3] This is of some note in that it features Lawrence's own name and is not the Sperry Gyroscope Company founded by his father.

We have Lawrence Burst Sperry still personally addressed at 1505 Albemarle road, Brooklyn, in the county of Kings and the State of New York though appearing as the assignor to the Sperry Gyroscope Company.[4]

Lawrence Sperry's Sunday school teacher at age six was recently-retired John D. Rockefeller, possibly a family friend, or at least an acquaintance of his father, Elmer.[5]

Patents whose inventor or applicant is Lawrence Burst Sperry or Lawrence B. Sperry or Lawrence Sperry

Publications by or about Lawrence Burst Sperry or Lawrence B. Sperry or Lawrence Sperry


  1. 1.0 1.1 Lt. Col. William Scheck (ret.), "Lawrence Sperry: Autopilot Inventor and Aviation Innovator", Aviation History magazine, November 2004.
  2. Hallion, 2003, pp. 326–327. Note: Hallion describes the hands-off flight with Cachin on the wing but doesn't mention a flight with both guys on wings and no one in the pilot's seat.
  3. Patent US-1917-1339006
  4. Patent US-1918-1309489
  5. Davenport, 1978, Gyro, p. 25–26.


Names Lawrence Burst Sperry; Lawrence B. Sperry; Lawrence Sperry
Birth date 1892-12-22
Death date 1924-01-11
Countries US
Locations Chicago; Cleveland; Brooklyn, New York; New York City, New York
Tech areas Airplane, Gyroscope, Parachute, Instrument, autopilot, Automatic stability
Affiliations Sperry Gyroscope Company, Lawrence Sperry Aircraft Company, Inc.
Wikidata id Q338436