Anemometer is a device used for measuring wind speed and direction. It is also a common weather station instrument. The term is derived from the Greek word anemos, which means wind, and is used to describe any wind speed instrument used in meteorology. The first known description of an anemometer was given by Leon Battista Alberti in 1450.
A simple type of anemometer was invented in 1845 by Rev Dr John Thomas Romney Robinson, of Armagh Observatory. It consisted of four hemispherical cups mounted on horizontal arms, which were mounted on a vertical shaft. The air flow past the cups in any horizontal direction turned the shaft at a rate that was roughly proportional to the wind speed. Therefore, counting the turns of the shaft over a set time interval produced a value proportional to the average wind speed for a wide range of speeds. It is also called a rotational anemometer.
On an anemometer with four cups, it is easy to see that since the cups are arranged symmetrically on the end of the arms, the wind always has the hollow of one cup presented to it and is blowing on the back of the cup on the opposite end of the cross. Since a hollow hemisphere has a drag coefficient of .38 on the spherical side and 1.42 on the hollow side, more force is generated on the cup that is presenting its hollow side to the wind. Because of this asymmetrical force, torque is generated on the axis of the anemometer, causing it to spin.