The beautiful and highly ingenious instrument called by the name Aneroid, is no less remarkable for the scientific principles of its construction and action, than for the nicety of its mechanism. It is a substitute, and perhaps the best of all substitutes, for the mercurial barometer. As its name implies, it is constructed “without fluid.” It was invented by M. Vidi of Paris. In the general form in which it is made it consists of a brass cylindrical case about four i

ches in diameter and one and a half inch deep, faced with a dial graduated and marked similarly to the dial-plate of a “wheel-barometer,” upon which the index or pointer shows the atmospheric pressure in inches and decimals of an inch in accordance with the mercurial barometer. Within the case, for ordinary sizes, is placed a flat metal box, generally not more than half an inch thick and about two inches or a little more in diameter, from which nearly all the air is exhausted. The top and bottom of this box is corrugated in concentric circles, so as to yield inwardly to external pressure, and return when the pressure is removed. The pressure of the atmosphere, acting externally, continually changes, while the elastic pressure of the small quantity of air within can only vary by its volume being increased or decreased, or by change of temperature. Leaving out of consideration, for the moment, the effect of temperature, we can readily perceive that as the pressure is lessened upon the outside of the box, the elastic force of the air within will force out the top and bottom of the box; and when the outer pressure is increased they will be forced in. Thus with the varying pressure of the atmosphere, the top and bottom of the box approach to and recede from each other by a small quantity; but the bottom being fixed, nearly all this motion takes place on the top. Thus the top of the box is like an elastic cushion, which rises and falls according as the compressing force lessens or increases. To the eye these expansions and contractions would not be perceptible, so small is the motion. But they are rendered very evident by a nice mechanical arrangement. To the box is attached a strong piece of iron, kept pressed upon it by a spring at one extremity; so that as the top of the box rises, the motion is made sensible at the point held by the spring, and when the top descends the spring draws the piece of iron into close contact with it. This piece of iron acts as a lever, having its fulcrum at one extremity, the power at the centre of the box-top, and the other extremity controlled by the spring. Thus it is evident that the small motion of the centre of the box-top is much increased at the spring extremity. The motion thus obtained is communicated to a system of levers; and, by the intervention of a piece of watch-chain and a fine spring passing round the arbour, turns the index to the right or left, according as the external pressure increases or decreases. Thus, when by increase of pressure the vacuum box is compressed, the mechanism transfers the movement to the index, and it moves to the right; when the vacuum box bulges out under diminished pressure, the mechanical motion is reversed, and the index moves to the left. As the index traverses the dial, it shows upon the scale the pressure corresponding with that which a good mercurial barometer would at the same time and place indicate; that is, supposing it correctly adjusted.

A different and more elegant arrangement has since been adopted. A broad curved spring is connected to the top of the vacuum box, so as to be compressed by the top of the box yielding inward to increased pressure, and to relax itself and the box as the pressure is lessened. The system of levers is connected to this spring, which augments and transfers the motion to the index, in the manner already described. Increase of pressure causes the levers to slacken the piece of watch-chain connected with them and the arbour of the index. The spring now uncoils, winds the chain upon the arbour, and turns the index to the right. Decrease of pressure winds the chain off the barrel, tightens the spiral spring, which thus turns the index to the left. The graduations of the aneroid scale are obtained by comparisons with the correct standard reading of a mercurial barometer, under the normal and reduced atmospheric pressure. Reduced pressure is obtained by placing both instruments under the receiver of an air pump.

Fig. 33.

Fig. 33 represents the latest improved mechanism of an aneroid. The outer case and the face of the instrument are removed, but the hand is attached by its collet to the arbour. A is the corrugated box, which has been exhausted of air through the tube, J, and hermetically sealed by soldering. B is a powerful curved spring, resting in gudgeons fixed on the frame-plate, and attached to a socket behind, F, in the top of the box. A lever, C, joined to the stout edge of the spring, is connected, by the bent lever at D, with the chain, E, the other end of which is coiled round, and fastened to the arbour, F. As the box, A, is compressed by the weight of the atmosphere increasing, the spring, B, is tightened, the lever, C, depressed, and the chain, E, uncoiled from F, which is thereby turned so that the hand, H, moves to the right. In the mean while the spiral spring, G, coiled round F, and fixed at one extremity to the frame-work and by the other to F, is compressed. When, therefore, the pressure decreases, A and B relax, by virtue of their elasticity; E slackens, G unwinds, turning F, which carries H to the left. Near J is shown an iron pillar, cast as part of the stock of the spring, B. A screw works in this pillar through the bottom of the plate, by means of which the spring, B, may be so adjusted to the box, A, as to set the hand, H, to read on the scale according to the indications of a mercurial barometer. The lever, C, is composed of brass and steel, soldered together, and adjusted by repeated trials to correct for the effects of temperature.

A thermometer is sometimes attached to the aneroid, as it is convenient for indicating the temperature of the air. As regards the instrument itself, no correction for temperature can be applied with certainty. It should be set to read with the mercurial barometer at 32° F. Then the readings from it are supposed to require no correction.

In considering the effects of temperature upon the aneroid, they are found to be somewhat complex. There is the effect of expansion and contraction of the various metals of which the mechanism is composed; and there is the effect on the elasticity of the small portion of air in the box. An increase of temperature produces greater, a diminution less elasticity in this air. The compensation for effects of temperature is adjusted by the process of “trial and error,” and only a few makers do it well. It is very often a mere sham. Admiral FitzRoy writes, in his Barometer Manual, “The known expansion and contraction of metals under varying temperatures, caused doubts as to the accuracy of the aneroid under such changes; but they were partly removed by introducing into the vacuum box a small portion of gas, as a compensation for the effects of heat or cold. The gas in the box, changing its bulk on a change of temperature, was intended to compensate for the effect on the metals of which the aneroid is made. Besides which, a further and more reliable compensation has lately been effected by a combination of brass and steel bars.”

“Aneroid barometers, if often compared with good mercurial columns, are similar in their indications, and valuable; but it must be remembered that they are not independent instruments, that they are set originally by a barometer, require adjustment occasionally, and may deteriorate in time, though slowly.”

“The aneroid is quick in showing the variation of atmospheric pressure; and to the navigator who knows the difficulty, at times, of using barometers, this instrument is a great boon, for it can be placed anywhere, quite out of harm’s way, and is not affected by the ship’s motion, although faithfully giving indication of increased or diminished pressure of air. In ascending or descending elevations, the hand of the aneroid may be seen to move (like the hand of a watch), showing the height above the level of the sea, or the difference of level between places of comparison.”

In the admiral’s Notes on Meteorology, he says, “The aneroid is an excellent weather glass, if well made. Compensation for heat or cold has lately been introduced by efficient mechanism. In its improved condition, when the cost may be about £5, it is fit for measuring heights as far as 5,000 feet with approximate accuracy; but even at the price of £3, as a weather-glass only, it is exceedingly valuable, because it can be carried anywhere; and if now and then compared with a good barometer, it may be relied on sufficiently. I have had one in constant use for ten years, and it appears to be as good now as at first. For a ship of war (considering concussion by the fire of guns), for boats, or to put in a drawer, or on a table, I believe there is nothing better than it for use as a common weather-glass.”

Colonel Sir H. James, R.E., in his Instructions for taking Meteorological Observations, says of the aneroid, “This is a most valuable instrument; it is extremely portable. I have had one in use for upwards of ten years, and find it to be the best form of barometer, as a “weather-glass,” that has been made.”

One of the objects of Mr. Glaisher’s experiments in balloons was “to compare the readings of an aneroid barometer with those of a mercurial barometer up to five miles.” In the comparisons the readings of the mercurial barometer were corrected for index-error and temperature. The aneroid readings, says Mr. Glaisher, “prove all the observations made in the several ascents may be safely depended upon, and also that an aneroid barometer can be made to read correctly to pressures below twelve inches.” As one of the general conclusions derived from his experiments he states, “that an aneroid barometer read correctly to the first place, and probably to the second place of decimals, to a pressure as low as seven inches.” The two aneroids used by Mr. Glaisher were by Messrs. Negretti and Zambra.

Aneroids are now manufactured almost perfectly compensated for temperature. Such an instrument therefore ought to show the same pressure in the external air at a temperature say of 40°, as it would in a room where the temperature at the same time may be 60°; provided there is no difference of elevation. To test it thoroughly would require an examination and a comparison with barometer readings reduced to 32° F., conducted through a long range of temperature and under artificially reduced pressure. A practical method appears to be to compare the aneroid daily, or more often, for a few weeks with the readings of a mercurial barometer reduced to 32°; and if the error so found be constant, the object of the compensation may be assumed to be attained, particularly if the temperature during the period has varied greatly.

Directions for using the Aneroid.—Aneroids are generally suspended with the dial vertical; but if they be placed with the dial horizontal, the indications differ a few hundredths of an inch in the two positions. Hence, if their indications are registered, they should be kept in the same position.

The aneroid will not answer for exact scientific purposes, as it cannot be relied upon for a length of time. Its error of indication changes slowly, and hence the necessity of its being set from time to time with the reading of a good barometer. To allow of this being done, at the back of the outer case is the head of a screw in connection with the spring attached to the vacuum box. By applying a small turnscrew to this screw, the spring of the vacuum box may be tightened or relaxed, and the index made to move correspondingly to the right or left on the dial. By this means, besides being enabled to correct the aneroid at any time, “if the measure of a height rather greater than the aneroid will commonly show be required, it may be re-set thus: When at the upper station (within its range), and having noted the reading carefully, touch the screw behind so as to bring back the hand a few inches (if the instrument will admit), then read off and start again. Reverse the operation when descending. This may add some inches of measure approximately.”—FitzRoy.

Fig. 34.