Before a plane takes off, or a skydiver leaps into the abyss, someone uses an anemometer. Anemometers are devices used by meteorologists to measure wind speed. Anemometers are also used to measure wind pressure, a different phenomenon than wind speed.
Leon Battista Alberti
The first mechanical anemometer was invented in 1450 by Leon Battista Alberti, an Italian architect. The design was a rotating disk. Leonardo Da Vinci was called the inaugurator of the Renaissance, but Alberti was called its prophet.
The Cup Anemometer
Anemometers come in many forms, from spinning disks to digital. The simplest form in common use is the cup anemometer, which catches the wind with rotating cups, usually four. Cup anemometers are still used for wind, power performance evaluations and site calibrations.
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Thomas Romney Robinson
The first four-cup anemometer was invented by Irish scientist Thomas Romney Robinson in 1850. He published his first scientific article when he was 13 years old. His last written work was "Philosophical Transactions," published 75 years later. He was 57 when he invented the cup anemometer.
Anemometers are not only used by meteorologists. Various industries use them to measure gas streams, do aeronautics testing and to check ventilation. The Revegetation Research Project at Kahoolawe Island, Hawaii, uses anemometers to determine the effects of wind on vegetation. Highstown, New Jersey's Peddie School uses anemometers with its "Principia Project" to teach students about physics. Ships need special anemometers to measure both wind speed and "apparent" wind speed.