Today I’ve seen this picture taken in the cathedral of Wells. It’s a typical vault in the English Cathedrals and it’s impossible to say that it’s a very mathematical image, isn’t it?
Corpus Christi College is one of the constituent colleges of the university of Oxford. It was founded in 1517 and one of its symbols is the Pelican sundial erected in 1581 by Charles Turnbull in the main quadrangle. I went to visit the College but unluckily it was closed. Therefore, I asked permission from a guard to let me go in to see the sundial closer and he agreed. The sundial is wonderful and has a pelican on its top:
All the column is another sundial and it’s explaines the way how the sundial works:
There is a copy of this sundial in the university of Princeton known as Mather Sundial (you can see more information clicking on the picture below):
The Mather Sundial, which sits in the center of McCosh Courtyard, is a replica of the Turnbull Sundial (1551) at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. It was given in 1907 by Sir William Mather, governor of Victoria University in Manchester, England, “to symbolize the connection not only between Oxford and Princeton, but between Great Britain and America.” There are 24 different dials on it, and the frustum supports a globe (representing the earth) with a pelican on top (the symbol of Corpus Christi College).
At one time, the Mather Sundial was the province of seniors, who by custom enjoyed the exclusive privilege of sitting on its steps between classes.
This astrolabe is the only one which I found in the Ashmolean Museum. It was probably made in Spain in 1260 and it’s lent by the Museum of the History of Science.
Finally, I noticed two game boards. The first is this bone, wood and horn board with chess on one side and backgammon on the other. It’s from Northern Italy (1420-1450):
The second one is also from Northern Italy and the same period and it’s a chessboard on one side and a game involving moving pieces along the coiled body of a dragon on the other:
And that’s all! I’m sure that there are more mathematical objects in the Ashmolean but… I didn’t find them. If you do, perhaps we can collaborate in another post!
There also are some Mesopotamian astronomical and mathematcal tablets in the Ashmolean Museum. For example, these two tablets are two proto-cuneiform clay tablets from an administrative building. They contain receipts of objects and grain, accounts and possibly rations and it’s possible to distinguish the units, the tens and the sixties:
Next clay tablet records date palms, orchards and gardeners in Akkadian cuneiform (2350-2150 BC):
Perhaps, the next clay tablet is the most interesting mathematical one because of its diagram. It’s a school tablet from 1900-1600 BC with a mathematical exercise showing a triangle with the incorrect calculation of the area of a field:s
In Eleanor Robson’s Mathematical cuneiform tablets in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, we find an explanation about this tablet:
Type IV tablet with upper right portion missing and reverse blank where preserved. Geometrical diagram of a triangle, showing the two lengths and an erroneous value for the area. Found in Trench C-10, 1 metre from surface level, 2 metres from plain level, with two other Type IV tablets bearing elementary exercises […].
The correct answer is 3;45 · 1;52,30 · 0;30 = 3;30,56,15
The error appears to have arisen through misplacing the sexagesimal place of one part of an intermediate calculation […]
There also is a clay prism with table of linear measures and squares roots (1950-1700 BC) from Southern Iraq:
Finally, I took a photography of the clay tablet with astronomical observations copied by a scribe in the early 8th century BC from Iraqian Kish. It gives the dates of the rising and settings of Venus in the reign of Ammizaduqa, king of Babylon in the 17th century BC:
There also is this statue in the Ashmolean Museum. Khasekhem was the last king of the 2nd Dinasty (2850-2700 BC) and he is wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt and is wrapped in a long robe. His right fist is drilled to attach a separate object, perhaps a mace handle or sceptre. The king’s name is inscribed in front of his feet written inside a representation of the palace façade topped by the falcon god Horus. The base of the statue records a military campaign against the northern rebels referring to the inhabitants of the Nile Delta, alongside the bodies of slain enemies, numbered on the front as 47.209:
There also are some other Egyptian objects in which it’s possible to read the Hieroglific figures. One example is the limestone cornice from a false door in the mastaba of Sheri, overseer of mortuary priests tending the cults of the 2nd Dynasty Kings Sened and Persibsen (c.2700 BC):
Framed between two facades, Sheri and his wife Kentyetka are seated at a table laden with food offerings and we can see four numbers “1.000” below it:
Finally, there is a set of funerary stelae in which can be noticed some Egyptian figures:
For example, look at this limestone stela (c.1200 BC) of the Lector Priest Dedusobek, official of the pyramid and town of Senwosret II at Lahun. Dedusobek and his father Menkau are each seated before a table of offerings. You can see two set of four number “1.000” over the table:
This sundial is a copy of the original one carved in 1840 by the Canterbury sculptor Henry Weekes. Weekes’ sundial is in the City Museum and the new one was carved by Tim Lees in 1999.
Location: Dane John Gardens (map)
This wall in High Street A420 in Oxford has a plaque that says:
In a house on this site between 1655 and 1663 lived ROBERT BOYLE. Here he discovered BOYLE’S LAW and made experiments with an AIR PUMP designed by his assistant ROBERT HOOKE, Inventor, Scientist and Architect who made a MICROSCOPE and thereby first identified the LIVING CELL.
Location: High Street in Oxford (map)
I am used to the decimal metric system for measuring the distances! In Great Britain there isn’t the metro and the kilometer as the unit length so when you drive through its roads and motorways, you must to learn all about miles, yards,… So let me begin:
1 mile = 1,609344 km = 1760 yards
1 yard = 0,9144 m.
In Continental Europe we are used to write 500 m in spite of 1/2 Km because the decimal system is very comfortable for us. In Britain, it’s better to say 1/4, 1/2 or 3/4 miles than 415, 830 or 1245 yards, respectively. Here we have a case in which fractions are very useful!
I was in the Premier Inn hotel in Bristol and I think that this have been the tallest hotel where I’ve ever slept. There was this plaque next to the lifts and… can you notice anything strange?
Of course… where is number 13? The supestition has won!
Location: Premier Inn in Bristol (map)