To commemorate the life and achievements of Elmer Ambrose Sperry, whose genius and perseverance contributed so much to so many types of transportation, the Elmer A. Sperry Award was established by his daughter, Helen (Mrs. Robert Brooke Lea), and his son, Elmer A. Sperry, Jr., in January 1955.
The donors of the Elmer A. Sperry Award have stated that its purpose is “to encourage progress in the engineering of transportation”. The donors specified that the award recipient should be chosen by a Board of Award representing the four engineering societies in which Elmer A. Sperry was most active: the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, which upon merger with the Institute of Radio Engineers in 1962, became known as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers; the Society of Automotive Engineers which was renamed to SAE International in 2016 and the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers.
In 1960, the participating societies were augmented by the addition of the Institute of Aerospace Sciences which upon merger with the American Rocket Society in 1963, became the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. In 1990, the American Society of Civil Engineers became the sixth society to become a member of the Elmer A. Sperry Board of Award.
Important discoveries and engineering advances are often the work of a group, and the donors have further specified that the Elmer A. Sperry Award honor the distinguished contributions of groups as well as individuals.