The Science Museum in London (II)

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

There is asection dedicated to Mathematics and it’s a paradise for the mathematical freaks! It’s full of calculators, Klein’s bottles, polyhedra,… and it’s possible to learn a lot of things only reading the information next to them. Shall we begin?

After the Second World War, the teaching of arithmetic to children in Britain became less focussed on repeated sums and tables, and more orientated towards understanding through experience. The use ofcalculators was always controversial.
In 1971, the rapid introduction of silicon chips ushered in the age of the pocket electronic calculator. However, in Japan, use ofthe ‘soraban’ or Japanese abacus was so instilled that, even a generation later, older people relied on them.

Educational toys became increasingly popular during the 20th century as parents realised they could improve their children’s performance and manufacturers realised there was a large potential market. For example, we can see the ‘Tell Bell’ educational toy from c.1930 in the first picture of this post.

All these first calculators also have their space in the museum. Here we can see some examples. The first one is the ‘Addiator’ mechanical adder from 1924. Until the 1970s mechanical adders remained essentially the same as those made in the 19th century but used new materials and designs:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The ‘Alpina’ mechanical adder was produced in Germany in c.1955:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

From c.1950 we find the ‘Baby’ and the ‘Exactus’ mechanical adders and the ‘ Magical Brain’ mechanical adder is from c.1960:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

But… when did everything begin? The first known attempt to make a caclulating machine was by Wilhelm Schickard (1592-1635), Professor at the University of Tübingen. Sketches of the machine appear in two of his letters written to Johannes Kepler in 1623 and 1624. Unfortunately the machine was destroyed by fire and there is no record of a replacement. Two decades later, Blaise Pascal completed a calculating machine in 1642 when he was 19 y.o. It was designed for addition and subtraction, using a stylus to move the number wheels:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The crude constructional methods of the time resulted in unreliable operation. Although several machines were later offered for sale, the venture was not a commercial success.

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Sir Samuel Morland was the first Englishman to venture into the field of calculating machines designing this one (1666) on Pascal’s invention.

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Gottfried W. Leibniz continued the construction of new calculating machines with this new one which wasn’t on display when I was in the museum. The mechanism was based on the stepped reckoner which eventually became the foundation of the Arithmometer:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

It is unworthy of excellent men to lose hours like slaves in the labour of calculation, which could be safely relegated to anyone else if machines were used.

Leibniz, 1671

Finally, we must take a look to the Facit:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Was it really the World Champion in its class?

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

LocationScience Museum in London (map)

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