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What is the history of gyroscope toys?

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Quick Answer

Gyroscopes originated as toy tops dating back to ancient times. Later they were developed for piloting and military purposes and eventually made into toys. Gyroscope toys have been sold for over 70 years for educational and entertainment purposes.

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Full Answer

Archaeologists have found evidence of toy tops in many parts of the world dating back thousands of years. Ancient literature including "The Iliad" and Plato's "Republic" reference toy tops. The top is a gyroscope with only one point.

During the 1800s, French scientist Foucault studied physics and the Earth's rotation. In one such experiment, he utilized a spinning rotor mounted in a frame and concluded that the spinning wheel maintained its orientation despite Earth's rotation. He named the rotor and frame the gyroscope.

In the 1900s, a German inventor utilized the stabilizing nature of the gyroscope and invented the gyrocompass for underwater vessels. In 1906, Germans tested gyroscopes in torpedo boats and found they stabilized the boats. In 1909, the gyroscope was used to create the first auto pilot program for planes and boats. In 1915, gyroscopes were used to create gyrostabilizers to prevent ships from rolling. During WWII, gyroscopes were used for missile and bomb guidance.

In 1917, the gyroscopic effect was utilized to create the toy gyroscope. Originally called the Chandler gyroscope, it was a two-ringed gyroscope on a pedestal. The Tedco Company purchased Chandler in 1982 and continued to produce the gyroscope. The original design has remained unchanged since its invention.

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