A Fabulous Uncle Passes, W. Gordon White

Through its first 23 years, from 1968 to 1991, Maximum Instruments had four owners, but none was more influential in the success of the company’s products than its founder, Wilfrid Gordon White.  When he died in 1991, his nephew, Ridge White, wrote the eulogy, in which he recounted how his “Uncle Bussie” started Maximum with the wind instruments and the patented gust register. “Everyone, Bussie figured, is interested in extremes,” he says. “He certainly was!”

A man of extraordinary creativity and energy, Gordon patented dozens of product ideas in his lifetime and produced many of them. These include patents spanning mine-sweeping methods to the spherical, internally gimbaled compass design that has become the standard for all boats. 

For Maximum, there’s no question that the Gust Register was the most remarkable, created for his Vigilant and then Maestro wind speed instruments. As his son Ken says, “This patent alone put many children and grand-children through college.”

The patent, dated October 22, 1968, can be read online in full, but the abstract, which discusses the mechanism and the mixture of AC and DC current used, is surprisingly readable:

A wind-driven generator is connected to a…pivoted-coil type meter having a scale calibrated in terms of wind velocity. The meter has the usual pointer connected near one end to the coil, and having its other end opposite the scale, and is used to indicate current wind velocity. The meter has another pointer pivoted near one end, and having its other end opposite the scale. The two pointers are arranged to rotate in spaced-apart paths, and the tip of the maximum wind velocity indicator pointer is bent to extend across the path of rotation of the current wind velocity indicator pointer.

The generator is so connected to the meter that when current wind velocity is to be indicated, DC which varies conformably with the wind velocity is applied to the meter. When maximum wind velocity is to be indicated, AC is superimposed on the DC, causing the current wind velocity indicator meter to oscillate about its current wind velocity position, and to strike hammer-like blows against the tip of the maximum wind velocity indicator pointer, driving the latter to a maximum wind velocity position. Reset means is provided for moving the maximum wind velocity indicator pointer towards the zero end of the scale.
The precise language and detail of the patent give insight into the mind of the inventor. But there was more to the creative force known as Gordon White. Who designed the look of the instruments? Who made sure they were built precisely? Who sold them? Ridge White summarizes Gordon this way:

“My uncle was a fabulous uncle. I admire him for his imagination. He designed the logo, thought up the name, and had a sense of elegance and proportion. He designed the dials. He had a fabulous engineering sense combined with an artistic bent that enabled him to create a look for his products that nobody else could touch. He combined many talents—very clever, a fabulous salesman, a man with tremendous energy and enthusiasm, full of zeal, ideas and lists of things to do. He had very high standards and was committed to making his instruments the absolute best.”

< READ PART 4   |   READ PART 6 >

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