About Me At Age 30

This is me, Joe, at age 30, after I had been at Sperry Gyroscope for three years and led the design of an automated fin stabilizer for large ships. At this point in time the design had been implemented, carried into the field, and sold several times.

There was another fin stabilizer for ships already in the field, designed and built by the Denny-Brown company in Scotland. Their stabilizer had been in the field for 20 years, had been installed on a large number of ships, and had been partially funded by the British Navy. So the competition would seem to be severe.

However, our new design was very much lighter than the British design, took up less space, and was very much cheaper to install. And it produced more stabilization. Our system could reduce roll by 90 percent. The British system only reduced roll by about 75 percent. Because of these differences, the British system shortly became obsolete, and they had to do their best to copy our design.

This stabilizer fin design was so effective that it became a required feature of every new large cruise liner when the liner was built. It was also added to a large number of cargo ships. The design still exists in very similar form after being in the field for 60 years. A better stabilizer has yet to be developed.

When I came to Sperry and started marine engineering, I joined SNAME, the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. I wrote my first paper for SNAME, on the subject of this fin stabilizer, at the same time that it went to sea. This paper was awarded a prize as the best SNAME paper of the year.

This shows that not all innovations have to be brand new. If they are not new they have to be a whole lot better, and they can be innovations in that sense. The whole has the same name and objectives as what it is competing with, but the parts are what are different, better, and innovative. This also is an example of the importance of parts to most innovations.

About two years later, Sperry Gyroscope Company published an advertisement that characterized me as a young Imagineer. Click on the link below to see this early pre-Disney use of the term Imagineering.