Electrostatically Suspended Gyroscope

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The Electrostatically Suspended Gyroscope was developed at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign by physicists Arnold Nordsieck and Howard Knoebel in 1957. The gyroscope was developed out of the need for a gyroscope that would enable nuclear submarines to remain submerged for periods of 30 days at a time without requiring recalibration. Professor Nordsieck proposed the development of a gyroscope constructed with two axes that utilized two spherical metal rotors constructed from beryllium that would be supported by an electromagnetic field inside a vacuum chamber. The first device was completed in 1962, and like many prototypes it was crude and prone to malfunctions. By 1963, the team of scientists had perfected their “star in a bottle”.

Click to read more about the Gyroscope’s Impact.

– Coordinated Science Laboratory. Howard Knoebel worked in the Coordinated Science Lab once the building was constructed. This building though was not built when the gyroscope was created. The work may have taken place in the Physics Building (currently the Materials Science and Engineering Building) or an abandoned power house.


Physics Illinois. (n.d.). Physics in the 1950s: The Inertial Electronic Gyroscope. Retrieved from http://physics.illinois.edu/history/gyroscope.asp.

Department of Physics. (n.d.). Nordsieck Award. Retrieved from http://physics.illinois.edu/about/nordsieck-award.asp. (Updated link here)

Some Historical Highlights, 1964, 1967, Record Series 11/13/805, University of Illinois Archives.

Kingery, R. A., Berg, R. D., & Schillinger, E. H. (1967). Men and Ideas in Engineering. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Image 1