#
Science & Mathematics

The Museum's collections hold thousands of objects related to chemistry, biology, physics, astronomy, and other sciences. Instruments range from early American telescopes to lasers. Rare glassware and other artifacts from the laboratory of Joseph Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen, are among the scientific treasures here. A Gilbert chemistry set of about 1937 and other objects testify to the pleasures of amateur science. Artifacts also help illuminate the social and political history of biology and the roles of women and minorities in science.

The mathematics collection holds artifacts from slide rules and flash cards to code-breaking equipment. More than 1,000 models demonstrate some of the problems and principles of mathematics, and 80 abstract paintings by illustrator and cartoonist Crockett Johnson show his visual interpretations of mathematical theorems.

"Science & Mathematics - Overview" showing 2 items.

## Book - Handbook of Mathematical Functions with Formulas, Graphs and Mathematical Tables

- Description
- From the sixteenth century, computing people relied on printed mathematical tables in performing routine mathematical calculations. This volume, compiled by the Applied Mathematics Division of the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C., was conceived in 1954 as “a Handbook of Tables for the Occasional Computer” (at the time a computer was usually a person). It includes formulas and graphs used in computation as well as a wide range of tables.

- The first editor, Milton Abramowitz (1913-1958), began working with tables as a member of the Mathematical Tables Project in New York City. This was a program of the U.S. government’s Works Project Administration, begun in 1937 to provide work for the unemployed. Abramowitz had studied physics at Brooklyn College, but initially had no particular background in table making or numerical analysis. He would go on to earn a PhD. in mathematics from New York University. The second editor, Irene A. Stegun (1919-2008), joined the program in 1943, after she had received a master’s degree from Columbia University. By that time, the WPA had been terminated, and staff from project were doing computations needed by U.S. Navy and the Office of Scientific Research and Development for World War II efforts.

- After the war ended, the Mathematical Tables Project moved to Washington, D.C., where it was incorporated into the Computation Laboratory of the newly established Applied Mathematics Division of the N.B.S. Project staff hoped to produce a compact set of tables that would provide a digest of work they had carried out over the past ten years. With advice from an outside panel and sponsorship from the National Science Foundation, Abramowitz, Stegun, and the collaborators began this volume, which was finally published in June of 1964, some years after Abramowitz had died.

- The
*Handbook*proved popular. A second printing appeared in November of 1964. This is an example of that printing. It was owned by Professor Charles T. G. Looney, who taught engineering at the University of Maryland. Looney stamped the edges of the book with his name and signed it just inside the cover, but did not add further annotations.

- References:

- Scans of various editions of the
*Handbook*are available online.

- Ronald F. Boisvert and Daniel W. Lozier, “Handbook of Mathematical Functions,” in David R. Lide, ed.,
*A Century of Excellence in Measurements, Standards, and Technology: A Chronicle of Selected NBS/NIST Publications, 1901-2000*, NIST Special Publication 958, 2001, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, pp. 135-139.

- David Alan Grier, “Irene Stegun, the
*Handbook of Mathematical Functions*, and the Lingering Influence of the New Deal,”*American Mathematical Monthly*, 113 #7, August-September 2006, pp. 585-597.

- Location
- Currently not on view

- date made
- 1964

- maker
- Abramowitz, Milton

- Stegun, Irene A.

- ID Number
- 1988.3092.01

- nonaccession number
- 1988.3092

- catalog number
- 1988.3092.01

- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

## National Bureau of Standards Replica Meter Standard

- Description
- This aluminum bar, with an X-shaped cross-section, is a replica of the platinum international meter prototype housed in Paris and used as a standard for the metric system from 1889 to 1960. On one side, the lower left corner is marked: A.27. The upper right corner is marked: B.27. Like an actual meter standard, the bar is 102 centimeters long and there are marks 1 centimeter from each end on this side to show the precise length of a meter. Compare to 2000.0126.25.

- A rectangular walnut case is lined with black felt. A brass plate on the top of the case is marked: REPLICA METER BAR (/) Presented to (/) BENJAMIN L. PAGE (/) Metrologist (/) National Bureau of Standards (/) On the occasion of his retirement (/) December 29, 1961.

- Benjamin Lorenzo Page (1894–1977) began working with length standards at the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology) around 1920. He was presented with this replica when he retired. His widow, Helen (Bell) Page, then gave it to one of his colleagues, Rolland Ackermann (1905–1985).

- References:
*Catalog of Artifacts on Display in the NBS Museum*, edited by H. L. Mason, NBSIR 76-1125 (Washington, D.C., 1977), 17; Robert P. Crease,*World in the Balance: The Historic Quest for an Absolute System of Measurement*(New York: W. W. Norton, 2011), 223; Herbert Arthur Klein,*The Science of Measurement: A Historical Survey*(reprint, New York: Dover, 1988), 185; "Benjamin Lorenzo 'Ben' Page," http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=35098794;*Calibrations of the Line Standards of Length of the National Bureau of Standards*, by Lewis V. Judson and Benjamin L. Page, RP743,*Bureau of Standards Journal of Research*11 (July-December 1933).

- Location
- Currently not on view

- date made
- 1961

- ID Number
- 1985.0819.01

- accession number
- 1985.0819

- catalog number
- 1985.0819.01

- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center