1 Reply Latest reply on Dec 14, 2017 2:15 PM by Gene Morris

    Blueprints for Tide-Predicting Machine No. 2 (a.k.a "old brass brains")?

    techhistorynerd Adventurer

      I'm curious if the NARA has somewhere in its holdings detailed engineering drawings/blueprints for Tide-Predicting Machine No. 2 (TPM2), built originally by/for the United State Coast and Geodetic Survey in the early 1900s and currently held by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


      I'm aware of the 1915 USCGS publication Description of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Tide-Predicting Machine, No. 2 which is an excellent start, but I'm curious if the USCGS (or possibly NOAA) NARA record groups might contain somewhere full engineering drawings for the machine.


      I've checked the ARC listings for RG23: Records of the Coast and Geodetic Survey and RG370: Records of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration but filtering on engineering drawings the only reasonably promising listing I can see relates to the series RG23: Records Relating to Surveying Equipment, 1922 - 1959.  I'm not sure if TPM2 could be categorized as surveying equipment (it seems unlikely) and the date range is beyond the original construction period, but I'm not seeing anything along the lines of "tide prediction equipment"...


      It's conceivable such drawings might be interleaved with documents relating to the design and construction of the machine held by Textual Records, but if so none of the ARC entries for RG23 are jumping out at me as likely candidates for such records...  If anyone at NARA can offer some guidance on logical starting points that would be very useful...


      Given that NOAA is said to be keeping the machine in working order there may also be a chance that NOAA itself is still storing the technical records concerning it - am I correct that in that case I would need to contact NOAA directly?

        • Re: Blueprints for Tide-Predicting Machine No. 2 (a.k.a "old brass brains")?

          There is the strong likelihood of the records still being in NOAA’s hands. You may wish to contact NOAA’s National Ocean Service for more information.


          Occasionally, our holdings sometimes have information that pre-dates the date ranges given in our catalog.  You may wish to email our Cartographic unit at carto@nara.gov to inquire about whether they have anything on the TPM2 in their holdings.


          It’s possible that there is additional information in the textual records of RG 23. We looked through the finding ads we have and identified sections of the Superintendent's Files 1866-1910 relating to equipment and science, but failed to find anything. Our search was rather cursory and we limited it to only a few categories.We also looked for records of the Computing Division, which seems to have been in charge of predictive mathematics, but we found nothing any later than 1886. We can make these records available to you should you choose to visit our College Park, Maryland, facility. For more about doing research in College Park, please see: http://www.archives.gov/dc-metro/college-park/index.html  If you cannot travel to College Park, you may wish to consider hiring a professional researcher. You can find a list of researchers on our web page at http://www.archives.gov/research/hire-help/.

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