The Elmer A. Sperry Award

Given in recognition of a distinguished engineering contribution, which through application proven in actual service has advanced the art of transportation, whether by land, sea, air, or space.

G.A. Sandy Thomson

 G.A. Sandy Thomson
In recognition of the creation of a water-lubricated shaft seal for marine transport through the application of polymeric compounds, thereby eliminating the requirement for oil lubricated shaft seals.


George A. ‘Sandy’ Thomson
Innovator, Thordon Bearings Inc.

Sandy attended Northrop University in Inglewood, California studying Aircraft Maintenance Engineering but graduated as a Mechanical Engineer. In 1965, he decided to join the family business, Thomson-Gordon Ltd., in Hamilton, Ontario. At the time, this company was primarily a distributor of Engineers Supplies. Looking for a niche where engineered mechanical products made from rubber and plastic components could be designed, they developed the Thordon polymer in the late 1960’s.

Sandy’s focus on innovation and developing export markets has been the key to Thordon’s success. In 1990, he bought the Russian deep sea salvage tug, Rudokop, and converted it to a “floating showcase” of Thordon marine bearing and seal products, then captained this ship visiting more than 200 ports in Europe.

Today, Thordon has become a global leader in seawater lubricated propeller shaft bearings and seals as well as offering a complete range of non-metallic sleeve bearing solutions for marine, clean power generation, pump, offshore, and other industrial markets. The Thomson-Gordon Group has evolved with several industrial and aviation companies over the past 30 years. Sandy also currently operates a film production business, Cinema Sixteen Inc. and Marsh Brothers Aviation, besides being the Innovator at Thordon Bearings Inc.

About The Elmer A. Sperry Award

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.

Sperry Recipients

2019   G.A. Sandy Thomson

2018   Panama Canal Authority

2016   Harri Kulovaara