Who was responsible for the invention of the military hardware called a bombsight used in aircraft?
Carl Lucas van Norden (1880-1965), was the Dutch American engineer responsible for the invention of the bombsight. He was educated in Switzerland and then emigrated to the U.S. in 1904.
In 1911, he joined Sherry Gyroscope to work on ship gyrostabilizers. Subsequently, he worked directly for the U.S. Navy as a consultant. His device was used to drop bombs from high-altitude aircraft, accurately enough in practice, to hit a 100-foot (30 m) circle from an altitude of 21,000 feet (6,400 m), but the accuracy was never achieved in combat, due to intervening factors.
His device was used in WWII by the United States Army Air Force and the United States Navy and then again in the Korean War and the Vietnam War by the United States Air Force.
The device an early tachometric design that directly measured the aircraft’s ground speed and direction. The newer designs used an analog computer that continuously recalculated the bomb’s impact point based on changing flight conditions, and included an autopilot that reacted quickly and accurately to changes in the wind and other effects.
The precision would enable direct bombing attacks on ships, factories, and other targets, from high-altitudes. To protect these advantages, the Norden bombsight was granted the utmost secrecy in WWII, and was part of a production effort similar to the Manhattan Project (development of the atomic bomb).
Norden was inducted into the US National Aviation Hall of Fame in July 1994.