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Ambrose Swasey

U.S. Patent No. 959,179
Inducted in 2006
Born Dec. 19, 1846 - Died June 15, 1937

Ambrose Swasey, inventor of precise astronomical instruments, designed some of the most powerful and accurate telescopes of his day.

Swasey was born in Exeter, New Hampshire. Apprenticed to a machine works at age eighteen, he showed a natural aptitude for mechanics. With Worcester R. Warner, he founded the Warner & Swasey Company in 1880. Although machine tools were the company's main focus, their astronomical instruments brought them world renown.

Two great telescopes the partners designed and built were a thirty-six-inch refractor, the largest of its time, for the University of California's Lick Observatory, and the twenty-five percent more powerful Yerkes refractor. Swasey also perfected a tool to divide meridian circles, the dividing engine, that was accurate to within one inch of arc in a three-mile radius circle. His mastery of precision yielded highly regarded gun sights, range finders, field telescopes, and binoculars as well.

A founding member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Swasey encouraged scientific progress. He contributed generously to the United Engineering Society and endowed a professorship at Case School of Applied Sciences (Case Western Reserve University). With Warner, he donated observatories to Case and to Denison University.

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