Letter | Published:

Dynamometers and Units of Force

Nature volume 14, page 69 | Download Citation



IN NATURE (vol. xiv., p. 29) Prof. Barrett says “it would be interesting to know on what grounds Prof. Hennessy bases his emphatic and reiterated assertion.” The assertion referred to is contained in my former communication (NATURE, vol. xiii., p. 466). The grounds on which it is based are as follows:—In order to accurately measure units of force according to the C. G. S. system, spring balances which could be depended upon to the 1/981 of a gramme or 1/63 of a grain nearly would be required. In mechanics the forces to be compared and measured usually amount to several kilogrammes, and powerful spring dynamometers are most suitable for their estimation. Dynamometers such as those alluded to as being sent for exhibition from the College of Science to South Kensington are of this kind. By experiment I have found them unfit for the estimation of small units of force. I should be much interested in seeing Prof. Barrett or Dr. Ball measuring a C. G. S. unit or 1/981 of a gramme by the aid of one of these dynamometers. It should be remembered that in this discussion I all through refer to these dynamometers and others of a similar kind employed in mechanics. I was already aware of the belief expressed by Sir William Thomson and Prof. Tait, that spring balances, “if carefully constructed,” would rival or even surpass the ordinary balance. While, thus referring to the possible perfection of the spring balance with the qualifying particle “if,” they justly remark that the pendulum is the most delicate of all instruments for the measurement of force. A pendulum will probably always furnish the best means for measuring force in absolute measure, whether by large or small units; and I entertain strong doubts as to whether the spring balance can ever supersede the beam balance for accurate determinations of weight. In no department of experimental inquiry are such minute quantities weighed, and nowhere is greater accuracy in determining differences of weight required than in chemical analysis, and chemists almost universally employ the beam balance in preference to the spring balance in their most delicate analytical researches.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Author information


  1. Royal College of Science for Ireland



  1. Search for HENRY HENNESSY in:

About this article

Publication history





By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.