Sunday, December 30, 2012

The World's Most Accurate SlideRule -- Eximius Diu 6

Image Copyright David Hoyer
Reproduced with Permission

We are fortunate to live in a post retro slide rule era where creative minds can ponder how to construct a better slide rule (sort of like a better mouse trap, I suppose).  The new leader at the end of 2012 in this obscure endeavor is Dave Hoyer of Encore Consulting down under in Sydney, Australia.
The Eximius Diu 6 "spiral diameter is 750 mm (29.5"), with 135 spiral turns giving a scale length of 175 m (574 ft).   Due to the nature of spiral slide rule scales, this is equivalent to a linear slide rule of length 318 m (1043 ft)."  This allows the computation of results that are accurate to 6 decimal places.

Robert E Schofield, Joseph Priestley Scholar Died One year Ago Today

Robert E. Schofield   (June 1, 1923 - December 30, 2011) 
We shall miss Bob and the contributions he has made to the history of science and the fuller understanding of one of the greatest persons of the Enlightenment.

Robert E. Schofield of Montgomery Township, NJ, died one year ago today,  December 30, 2011.  Bob was born on June 1, 1923 in Milford, NE, and went on to live in Denver CO as a youth.  He attended Princeton University on a university scholarship and graduated with an A.B. in Physics in 1944. Immediately upon graduating he was drafted into the Army and entered the 9812 T.S.U. of the U.S. Army, Manhattan District Engineers. He served on inactive duty until 1945, was placed on active duty as a T/S in Oak Ridge TN, as a research assistant on the atomic bomb project, before his honorable discharge in 1946.
Bob returned to school to continue his graduate school in physics and was a teaching assistant at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis from 1946 until he was granted his M.S. in Physics in 1948. From there he worked as a research Associate at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory (a General Electric Company) in Schenectady, NY from 1948 to 1951. He was a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the History of Science and Learning Department at Harvard University from 1951 until earning a Ph.D. in the History of Science in 1955. Concurrently, he was a Fulbright Fellow at University College, London from 1953 to 1954.
Over the next almost 40 years, Robert continued his teaching in many schools. He was a Department of History Assistant Professor and Associate Professor at University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS (1955-1959), Guggenheim Fellow (1959-1960), Associate Professor, History of Science, Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland, OH (1960-1964), Professor and Lynn Thorndike Professor, History of Science, Case Western Reserve University (1964-1972), Guggenheim Fellow (1967-1968), member of the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Historical Studies (1967-1968 and 1974-1975), Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, History of Technology and Science, Department of History, Iowa State University (1979 to 1993) and was Professor Emeritus from 1993 on.
One of his proudest accomplishments was in his teaching of undergraduate and graduate students. With Dr. Melvin Kranzberg, he created the History of Science and Technology Program for graduate and undergraduate studies at Case Institute of Technology (now Case Western Reserve University) in 1961. And, in 1980, with Dr. Richard Lowitt, he created the graduate Ph. D. program in History (Technology and Science and Agriculture) at Iowa State University. During his career as a graduate teacher, he was senior director for at least 12 students who obtained their doctorates in the History of Science and/or Technology, most of whom have continued as publishing and teaching scholars.
Mr. Schofield was a founder of the Midwest Junto for the History of Science (along with Duane H.D. Roller and Robert Siegfried), member of the History of Science Society, Society for the History of Technology, American Society for 18th Century Studies, Academie Internationale d’Historie des Sciences (corresponding), British Society for the History of Science and a Fellow at both the Royal Society of Arts and the American Physical Society.
While at the University of Kansas (1955-1959), Bob along with Dr. Robert Johannsen, started the History Department faculty colloquium, the “Hatchet Club” and with Richard Lowitt’s help started the Iowa State University History Department faculty colloquium, the “Vigilates”.
Author of some 35 papers in history journals such as Isis, Annals of Science, Chymia, Technology and Culture and the Journal of the History of Ideas, he also wrote articles and chapters in books, was author of the biography of Joseph Priestley for the New Dictionary of National Biography (England) and was editor of two books. Robert also wrote The Lunar Society of Birmingham in 1963 for which he won the Pfizer Prize for a History of Science Society book, Mechanism and Materialism (1970), Stephen Hales: Scientist and Philanthropist (with D.G.C. Allan), Man and the Frame of Nature (1989), The Enlightenment of Joseph Priestley 1733-1773 (1997) and The Enlightened Joseph Priestley 1774-1804 (2004), for which he won the Roy G. Neville Prize from the Chemical Heritage Foundation in 2006.
Mr. Schofield also has his nearly complete list of publications in the Schofield Festschrift: Beyond History of Science: Essays in Honor of Robert E. Schofield by Elizabeth Garber, editor (Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press, 1990, pp. 311-312). He is listed in Who’s Who and Who’s Who in America.
Robert Schofield was predeceased by his wife, Mary Peale Smith whom he married June 20, 1959 and had previously obtained her B.A. from Smith College in 1945 and M.A. from Columbia University in 1956 and his parents Charles E. and Nora May Fullerton Schofield. Surviving are his son Charles Stockton Peale Schofield, Johns Hopkins University and a sister Maxey W. Garrett, Austin TX.

The preceding information was summarized from an Obituary at the Kimble Funeral Home in Princeton, NJ at the time of Bob's death.

Human Achievement: Technology

I just read a blog called The Fjordman Report.  The specific post was entitled Human Achievement: Technology... which seems to be somewhat interesting.  It does seem a little disjointed.  I think it is part of a review of a book by Charles Murray entitled Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950.   However, he does not explicitly state that it is a review of this book in his post. Murray's book was published around 2002, if I recall correctly. It is really hard to tell just jumping in to this one post.  After surfing a while I see that there are many other posts relative to parts of this topic. I have not found the first post yet. I will straighten all this out when I figure it out.

One of the most notable omissions, to me, was his not mentioning Joseph Priestley. He dances around him, but never mentions him by name. He covers at least one member of the Lunar Society, but fails to mention most of the more famous members, He covers many famous chemists of the period, but not Priestley. He deals with early developments in electricity, but again skips over the person who wrote the most substantial book on the subject that stood the test of time for about 150 years.  He does not cover the issue of the gas cycle that exists between animals and plants, nor the issue of the discovery of photosynthesis.

I have been looking at a number of his other posts and I must say that he has a rather unusual slant on things. He also seems to be all over the board, including a heavy dose on Islamic subjects, or should I say anti-Islamic subjects. Upon some further reading, it appears that this Fjordsman is living somewhere in exile from his native Norway after being persecuted for his outspoken Islamophobic views against multiculturism.  I will have to spend more time reading this fellow and expand this post.

I also notice a post on a few mathematical items, including the history of the "Arabic Numerals" and Zero.

Let me know what you think about his writings.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Steampunk Slide Rules and Other Retro Computing Devices

I never thought I would see the day when the instructional slide rule from the mid twentieth century would become a pop culture icon.  I just found this item for sale on the Internet.  Someone thought it was worth the price and actually bought it for $1195 plus shipping.

Overall Dimensions
29" H X 15" W X 84" D
73.7cm H X 38.1cm W X 213.4cm D
Rare, large mid-century Pickett brand slide rule that was given to teacher's as a bonus with their student slide rule orders. It would hang at the front of the room and be used for classroom demonstation. The 7-foot long classic yellow slide rule is now suspended into custom-made stainless table base. The slide rule is completely functional, iincluding movable cursor and center slide. Secondary shelf area beneath could hold glass and/or add glass to top if you choose. This is a unique mathmatical classroom artifact with sophisticated, contemporary design. Use as sofa, hallway, office or entry table.

I own three instructional slide rules: two K&E slide rules (the Deci-Lon 68 1100 and the Polyphase 4053) and the Pickett 1010 ES.  I knew there was a reason that I bought those. Where is my sawhorse?

While on the subject of retro steampunk slide rules, I did see an Otis King cylindrical slide rule that was mounted onto a cane.  This was at an antique show many years ago in upstate New York. It popped up again at the 2003 East Coast Oughtred Society Meeting.  The only reference to it that I could find with a picture was here.  I have now found another one that went up for auction on August 9, 2008, in Johnson City, TN. It sold for $750 plus the buyer's premium of 20% plus tax. So, $900 would be a fair price to say that it sold for.  I have an image of that one here below.

I have a birch limb that I've always wanted to convert to an Otis King cane, but I can't quite bring myself to destroy a perfectly good Otis King slide rule to make one. I have tried to find a non-functional  one to buy for that purpose.

I also have seen a Norden bombsight that was converted to a coffee table.  The metal shield was removed on the top and replaced with glass. Cool! I wish I had a picture to show you.

If anyone has seen any other retro type computing device that has been converted to a useful modern item (or even not so useful item) I would like to know.  Please leave a comment or contact me and send an image. I'm sure that some of the other readers of this blog would like to see it.

Addendum 3/3/13
I found another one -- A clock with a slide rule pendulum
Here it is:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Books and Other Ephemera by Joseph Priestley

I realize that I have been working my way around something that might be of real interest to readers of this blog.  Since I started learning about Joseph Priestley about 40 years ago, I have acquired quite a few of his books and other ephemera and paraphernalia. I have always had a fascination with his original works. While I oftentimes get very recent versions of his writings to read, I have been lucky enough to amass quite a collection of his original first and second editions from the latter part of the 18th century and very early 19th century.  In addition, I have noted in this blog, the "Rushing Water" bookplate that I acquired that came from one of his very own books, a house key that was most likely the front door key to his house in Northumberland, PA, and a number of hand written letters and manuscripts.

I have also collected, as noted elsewhere in this blog, likenesses of Priestley in the form of medallions and exonumia or memorial coins, some from 1804 when he died.

I must confess that it will most likely be impossible for me to bring together a substantial collection of his works since he was so prolific in his writings.  He is credited with having written about 150 books.
See Crook, R.E., A Bibliography of Joseph Priestley (1733 - 1804), Library Association, 1966.  Additionally, any decent copy of his major works can sell for thousands of dollars.  Even his religious works go for substantial sums, though not as much as his scientific works.  I have often thought of inventorying the collection I have, annotating the editions and condition, etc. I will start assembling that information on this post below.

I might also add that should anyone want to part with one of his works, or for that matter any other ephemera of his, I would be honored to purchase it, if it is a reasonable price. Just email me and we can see if we can come to terms.

I must add to this post with more specifics as to what I do have for anyone who might be interested.
Stay tuned. Comments appreciated here.

Letters to a Young Man, Part II, Occasioned by Mr. Evanson's Treatise on the Dissonance of the Four Generally Received Evangelists  Joseph Priestley, London, 1793 Joseph Priestly Printed for J Johnson , No . 72 St Paul's Churchyard 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thomas Armstrong & Brothers, Scientific Instrument Makers

During the second half of the 19th Century Thomas Armstrong (1829?-1890?) was a noted maker of scientific instruments with principal operations in Manchester, England.  Having been trained as an optician, his initial interest was in providing optical devices to a variety of clientele.  However, he rapidly expanded the firm into producing instruments in many new scientific areas.

Joseph Armstrong, Thomas' father, had started the family business as a jeweler and silversmith. Thomas, being the eldest son, joined his father's firm and started incorporating his field of expertise into the firm's product offerings.   After his father's death Thomas took his brother George into the business as his partner and went by the name Thomas Armstrong & Brother in 1868. At some point after that the two Armstrong brothers also made their other brother, Alfred, a partner and the firm was renamed once again to be Thomas Armstrong & Brothers.  By this time they were providing compressed gases, meteorological equipment and other optical equipment to a wide variety of clients.  In 1891, based upon the success of the firm and the quality of the products that they were producing,  they were awarded substantial contracts with the military, and many other government agencies in addition to their other clientele.  Frank Armstrong, Thomas' son, joined the firm in the 1890s.  The firm continued to grow and provided a substantial variety of devices used in World War I.  For a more complete biography of the family of Armstrong scientific instrument makers refer to an article on Thomas Armstrong at the  Manchester Museum of Science and Industry.

I had acquired a pocket aneroid barometer labeled Thos. Armstrong & Bro. a number of years ago and found it to be quite well made and still functioning well.  For those of you who are not versed in the variety of barometer technology there are a number of ways to measure barometric pressure.  

Early barometers were constructed using a column of mercury of about one meter in length.  Furthermore, for these barometers they were required to be kept level. This was difficult to accomplish at sea. 

Subsequently, the French developed the aneroid barometer.  An aneroid barometer which was a thin long metal tube (usually coiled in order to take up less space), closed at one end and with a membrane on the other end. With a vacuum inside the tube and a clockwork gearing mechanism to measure minute movements of the membrane the device could detect very small changes in the atmospheric pressure.  Furthermore, this device was not required to be level in order to give an accurate reading. There are quite a variety of aneroid barometers that have been made. Needless to say, the smaller the tube, the more precise the clockwork gearing mechanism must be to measure the movement of the membrane accurately.  A small accurate pocket barometer is a device to admire.

Finally, the bargraph was developed. The heart of this mechanism was a belows mechanism that was connected to a levered arm with a pen on its other end. It was constructed such that a small movement of the bellows, which resulted from a change in barometric pressure, would result in a larger movement in the pen at the end of the arm through the mechanical advantage of placement of the fulcrum on the levered arm.  Additionally, the bargraph was fitted with a rotating drum covered with graph paper such that the barometric pressure was recorded.

Barometers are used for a variety of purposes. Principally, a stationary barometer will indicate important information for weather prediction.  A portable barometer can be used to measure altitude.  I will discuss each of the barometer types in a later post.

Subsequent to acquiring the Armstrong pocket barometer, I was fortunate to acquire other types of barometers including a number of mercury banjo barometers, a bargraph and a number of other aneroid barometers.  Restored mercury barometers are expensive. Having acquired an unrestored mercury barometers, I have now restored two of my banjo barometers and I am working on the third one.  

Other Armstrong instruments I have acquired include:
A Syke's hydrometer which includes the standard ball and weights, thermometer, and slide rule.  These were used by guagers to measure the alcoholic content of spirits in order to collect the excise tax for the government.  This is again a story for another post.

An automobile clock.

A wall clock




Travelling silverware set

I will post some images of these items as I get around to it.


Joseph Tykociner

Photo Credit: University of Illinois Archives
I first met Joseph Tykociner when I was a graduate student at the University of Illinois. I had enrolled in his seminar course on Zetetics in 1967, which was shortly before his death in 1969 when he was well into his 90s.  He was a frail old man, but he was fascinating, both in terms of his own personal background, and in the contents of the seminar course.

Of course, you should know that he is generally credited as being the first person to successfully put a sound track on film.  He had also been responsible for early work with Marconi in the first transatlantic wireless radio wave communications in 1901, and successfully worked for the Russian Navy on the establishment of wireless communications for their fleet in 1904.  I remember the day we were invited to his house and he showed us the medal he received from the Czar of Russia for his achievements.

Can you imagine this, here we stand in 2012 and I am talking about conversations with a person who was doing pioneering work at the end of the 19th century.

As I got to know him better, my admiration of his achievements grew immensely.  I think the best way to communicate my experiences with him is to first cover his lifelong accomplishments, and then the content of the seminar I participated in, before continuing on to his contributions to humankind.

I'm gong to deal with this post differently than other posts. I am going to just post this part out now and then modify it as I collect my thoughts on the rest of the post.  If you want to add something about him (information about him, while available, is not the most detailed) just send an email or comment on it below and I will incorporate it, if appropriate.

I found a good biography on him in an article in Gazeta: Newsletter of the American Association of Polish-Jewish Studies, 2006 vol. 13, no. 3.

I have a copy of his book Outline of Zetetics somewhere around here. I will dig that out also. It has been more than a few years since I have looked in there. I notice that while Amazon still lists the book, they say that it is out of print and they do not have any copies for sale. Yet, when I did a search on , Amazon has one used copy at $150. I guess I was right that the book is a treasure.