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The Armsby Respiration Calorimeter

The Armsby Respiration Calorimeter was proposed in 1898, opened in 1902, and served a vital role in animal and human nutrition experiments at Penn State through the 1960s.

Henry Prentiss Armsby led the effort as part of his work as the director of the State College Experiment Station, as dean of the School of Agriculture of the Pennsylvania State College, and later as director of the Animal Nutrition Institute.

Armsby wanted to measure the complete intake and outgo of steer or sheep, whether gaseous, liquid, solid, or heat, and to account for the total energy value of feed intake. This research moved our understanding of feed rations and nutrition from "rule-of-thumb barn manuals" (Swift, 1955) to research-based science that fundamentally changed animal feeding and agronomy crop management practices.

Though the instrument served in research for more than 60 years, it continues to inspire faculty members, students, and visitors interested in calorimetry, bio-chemistry, animal and human nutrition, engineering design, and science history. Current efforts to preserve the historic site are under way, including a historic architectural survey and inventory of instrumentation stored therein.

To learn more about the Armsby Respiration Calorimeter and our preservation project, email ArmsbyCalorimeter@psu.edu.