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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 2805 items.

Page 4 of 281

## Painting -

*Centers of Similitude (La Hire)*- Description
- Two circles or other similar figures can be placed such that a line drawn from some fixed point to a point of one of them passes through a point on the other, such that the ratio of the distances from the fixed point to the two points is always the same. The fixed point is called the center of similitude. The circles shown in this painting have two centers of similitude, one between the circles and one to the right (the center of similitude between the circles is shown). Crockett Johnson apparently based his painting on a diagram from the book
*College Geometry*by Nathan Altshiller Court (1964 printing). This diagram is annotated in his copy of the book. In the figure, the larger circle has center A, the smaller circle has center B, and the centers of similitude are the points S and S'. S is called the external center of similitude and S' is the internal center of similitude. The painting suggests several properties of centers of similitude. For example, lines joining corresponding endpoints of parallel diameters of the two circles, such as TT' in the figure, would meet at the external center of similitude. Lines joining opposite endpoints meet at the internal center of similitude.

- This painting emphasizes the presence of the two circles and line segments relating to centers of similitude, but not the centers themselves. Indeed, the painting is too narrow to include the external center of similitude.

- Some properties of centers of similitude were known to the Greeks. More extensive theorems were developed by the mathematician Gaspard Monge (1746–1818). It is not entirely clear why Crockett Johnson associated the painting with the artist and mathematician Phillipe de la Hire (1640–1718). A bibliographic note in the relevant section of Court reads: LHr., p. 42, rem. 8. However, Court was referring to an 1809 book by Simon A. J. LHuiler on the elements of analytic geometry.

- This oil painting on masonite is #14 in Crockett Johnson's series. It was completed in 1966 and is signed: CJ66.

- References: R. J. Archibald, "Centers of Similitude of Circles,"
*American Mathematical Monthly*, 22, #1 (1915), pp. 6–12; unpublished notes of J. B. Stroud.

- Location
- Currently not on view

- date made
- 1966

- referenced
- de la Hire, Phillipe

- painter
- Johnson, Crockett

- ID Number
- 1979.1093.09

- catalog number
- 1979.1093.09

- accession number
- 1979.1093

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

## Painting -

*Measurement of the Earth (Eratosthenes)*- Description
- The determination of the size and shape of the Earth has occupied philosophers from antiquity. Eratosthenes, a mathematician in the city of Alexandria in Egypt who lived from about 275 through 194 BC, proposed an ingenious way to measure the circumference of the Earth. It is illustrated by this painting. Eratosthenes claimed that the town of Syene (now Aswan) was directly south of Alexandria, and that the distance between the cities was known. Moreover, he reported that on a day when the vertical rod of a sundial cast no shadow at noon in Syene, the shadow cast by a similar rod at Alexandria formed an angle of 1/50 of a complete circle.

- In the Crockett Johnson painting, the circle represents the Earth and the two line segments drawn from the center display the direction of the two rods. The two parallel lines represent rays of sunlight striking the Earth, the dark-purple region the shadowed area. The angle of the shadow equals the angle subtended at the center of the Earth, hence the circumference of the entire Earth can be computed when the angle and the distance of the cities is known.

- Crockett Johnson's painting may be after a diagram from the book by James R. Newman entitled
*The World of Mathematics*(p. 206), although the figure is not annotated. Newman published a brief extract describing ideas of Eratosthenes, based on a first century BC account by Cleomedes.

- The Crockett Johnson painting is #15 in the series. It is marked on the back : Crockett Johnson 1966 (/) MEASUREMENT OF THE EARTH (/) (ERATOSTHENES).

- Reference: O. Pederson and M. Phil,
*Early Physics and Astronomy*(1974), p. 53.

- Location
- Currently not on view

- date made
- 1966

- referenced
- Eratosthenes

- painter
- Johnson, Crockett

- ID Number
- 1979.1093.10

- catalog number
- 1979.1093.10

- accession number
- 1979.1093

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

## Painting -

*Homothetic Triangles (Hippocrates of Chios)*- Description
- Two polygons are said to be homothetic if they are similar and their corresponding sides are parallel. If two polygons are homothetic, then the lines joining their corresponding vertices meet at a point.

- The diagram on which this painting is based is intended to illustrate the homothetic nature of two polygons ABCDE . . . and A'B'C'D'E' . . . From the title, it appears that Crockett Johnson wished to call attention of homothetic triangular pairs ABS and A'B'S, BCS and B'C'S, CDS and C'D'S, DES and D'E'S, etc. The painting follows a diagram that appears in Nathan A. Court's
*College Geometry*(1964 printing). Court's diagram suggests how one constructs a polygon homothetic to a given polygon. Hippocrates of Chios, the foremost mathematician of the fifth century BC, knew of similarity properties, but there is no evidence that he dealt with the concept of homothecy.

- To illustrate his figure, the artist chose four colors; red, yellow, teal, and purple. He used one tint and one shade of each of these four colors. The larger polygon is painted in tints while the smaller polygon is painted in shades. The progression of the colors follows the order of the color wheel, and the black background enhances the vibrancy of the painting.

*Homothetic Triangles*, painting #17 in the Crockett Johnson series, is painted in oil on masonite. The work was completed in 1966 and is signed: CJ66. It is inscribed on the back: Crockett Johnson 1966 (/) HOMOTHETIC TRIANGLES (/) (HIPPOCRATES OF CHIOS). It has a black wooden frame.

- References: Court, Nathan A.,
*College Geometry*, (1964 printing), 38-9.

- van der Waarden, B. L.,
*Science Awakening*(1954 printing), 131-136.

- Location
- Currently not on view

- date made
- 1966

- referenced
- Hippocrates of Chios

- painter
- Johnson, Crockett

- ID Number
- 1979.1093.11

- catalog number
- 1979.1093.11

- accession number
- 1979.1093

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

## Painting -

*Pencil of Ratios (Monge)*- Description
- The history of projective geometry begins with the work of the French mathematician Gerard Desargues (1591–1661). During his lifetime his work was well known in some mathematical circles, but after his death, his contributions to the field were largely forgotten. When Gaspard Monge (1746–1818) and his student, Jean-Victor Poncelet (1788–1867) began their studies of projective geometry, they were largely unaware of the work of Desargues. This may be why Crockett Johnson included Monge's name as opposed to Desargues' in this painting's title.

- One of the fundamental concepts of projective geometry, which was touched upon, but not fully understood, by the Greeks, is that of a cross-ratio, or "ratio of ratios." It is the topic of Johnson's painting. If points A, B, C, and D on line l are projected from point O, and if the line l’ crosses the four projected line segments, then the ratio of ratios (A’B’/C’B’)/(A’D’/ D’B’) of the corresponding points A’,B’,C’, and D’ is the same as the ratio of ratios (AC/CB)/(AD/DB). Thus, a cross-ratio is a projective invariant for all line segments l’.

- The artist may have received inspiration for this painting from his copy of James R. Newman's
*The World of Mathematics*(1956), p. 632. The figure is found there in an article by Morris Kilne entitled "Projective Geometry." This figure is not annotated, and the painting flips Kline's image.

- Crockett Johnson chose purple, white, black, and brown to color this work. He executed the projection in three tints of purple and one shade of white. The background, which is divided by line l’, was executed in black and brown.

*Pencil of Ratios*, an oil painting on masonite, is #18 in the series. It was completed in 1966 and is signed: CJ66. It is signed on the back: Crockett Johnson 1966 (/) PENCIL OF RATIOS (MONGE). The painting is unframed.

- Location
- Currently not on view

- date made
- 1966

- referenced
- Monge, Gaspard

- painter
- Johnson, Crockett

- ID Number
- 1979.1093.12

- catalog number
- 1979.1093.12

- accession number
- 1979.1093

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

## Painting -

*Square Root of Two (Descartes)*- Description
*La Géométrie*, one of the most important works published by the mathematician and philosopher René Descartes (1596–1650), includes a discussion of methods for performing algebraic operations using a straight edge and compass. One of the first is a way to determine square roots. This construction is the subject of Crockett Johnson's painting. Descartes explained: "If the square root of GH is desired, I add, along the same straight line, FG equal to unity, then bisecting FH at K, I describe the circle FIH about K as a center, and draw from G a perpendicular and extend it to I, and GI is the required root." (this is a translation of portion of*La Géométrie*, as published by J. R. Newman,*The World of Mathematics*(1956), p. 241)

- To understand Descartes' description and the title of this painting, consider the diagram. An angle inscribed in a semicircle is a right angle, thus triangle FGI is similar to triangle IGH. Because this two triangles are similar, their corresponding sides are proportional. Thus, G/IFG = GH/GI. But FG is equal to one, so GH is the square of GI, and GI the square root of GH desired.

- In his painting, Crockett Johnson has flipped the image from
*La Géométrie*found in his copy of*The World of Mathematics*. This figure is not annotated. The artist divided his painting into squares of area one, suggesting what came to be called Cartesian coordinates. The division indicates that the GH chosen has length two.

- Johnson chose white for the section of the semicircle that contains the edge of length equal to the square root of GH. This section provides a vivid contrast against the dull, surrounding colors. Crockett Johnson purposefully creates this area of interest to draw focus to the result of Descartes' construction.

*Square Root of Two*is painting #19 in the series. It was painted in oil or acrylic on masonite, completed in 1965, and is signed: CJ65. The wooden frame is painted black.

- Location
- Currently not on view

- date made
- 1965

- referenced
- Descartes, Rene

- painter
- Johnson, Crockett

- ID Number
- 1979.1093.13

- catalog number
- 1979.1093.13

- accession number
- 1979.1093

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

## Painting -

*Fluxions (Newton)*- Description
- In the 17th century, the natural philosophers Isaac Newton and Gottfried Liebniz developed much of the general theory of the relationship between variable mathematical quantities and their rates of change (differential calculus), as well as the connection between rates of change and variable quantities (integral calculus).

- Newton called these rates of change "fluxions." This painting is based on a diagram from an article by H. W. Turnbull in Newman's
*The World of Mathematics*. Here Turnbull described the change in the variable quantity y (OM) in terms of another variable quantity, x (ON). The resulting curve is represented by APT.

- Crockett Johnson's painting is based loosely on these mathematical ideas. He inverted the figure from Turnbull. In his words: "The painting is an inversion of the usual textbook depiction of the method, which is one of bringing together a fixed part and a ‘moving’ part of a problem on a cartesian chart, upon which a curve then can be plotted toward ultimate solution."

- The arc at the center of this painting is a circular, with a tangent line below it. The region between the arc and the tangent is painted white. Part of the tangent line is the hypotenuse of a right triangle which lies below it and is painted black. The rest of the lower part of the painting is dark purple. Above the arc is a dark purple area, above this a gray region. The painting has a wood and metal frame.

- This oil painting on pressed wood is #20 in the series. It is unsigned, but inscribed on the back: Crockett Johnson 1966 (/) FLUXIONS (NEWTON).

- References: James R. Newman,
*The World of Mathematics*(1956), p. 143. This volume was in the library of Crockett Johnson. The figure on this page is annotated.

- Crockett Johnson, "On the Mathematics of Geometry in My Abstract Paintings,"
*Leonardo*, 5 (1972): pp. 97–8.

- Location
- Currently not on view

- date made
- 1966

- referenced
- Newton, Isaac

- painter
- Johnson, Crockett

- ID Number
- 1979.1093.14

- catalog number
- 1979.1093.14

- accession number
- 1979.1093

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

## Painting -

*Cross-Ratio in a Conic (Poncelet)*- Description
- From ancient times, mathematicians have studied conic sections, curves generated by the intersection of a cone and a plane. Such curves include the parabola, hyperbola, ellipse, and circle. Each of these curves may be considered as a projection of the circle.

- Nineteenth-century mathematicians were much interested in the properties of conics that were preserved under projection. They knew from the work of the ancient mathematician Pappus that the cross ratio of line segments created by two straight lines cutting the same pencil of lines was a constant. In Figure 5, which is from an article by Morris Kline in James R. Newman's
*The World of Mathematics*, if line segment l’ crosses lines emanating from the point O at points A’, B’, C’ and D’; and line segment l croses the same lines at points A, B, C, and D, the cross ratio:

- (A’C’/C’B’) / (A’D’/D’B’) = (AC/BC) / (AD/DB). In other words, it is independent of the cutting line. (see the Crockett Johnson painting
*Pencil of Ratios (Monge)*).

- The French mathematician Michel Chasles introduced a related result, which is the subject of this painting. He considered two points on a conic section (such as an ellipse) that were both linked to the same four other points on the conic. He found that lines crossing both pencils of rays had the same cross ratio. Moreover, a conic section could be characterized by its cross ratio.This opened up an entirely different way of describing conic sections. Crockett Johnson associated this particular painting with another French advocate of projective geometry, Victor Poncelet.

- This oil painting on masonite is #21 in the series. It has a dark gray background and a wood and metal frame. It shows a large black ellipse with two pencils of lines linked to the same four lines of the ellipse. The painting is signed: CJ66. It is inscribed on the back: Crockett Johnson 1966 ( /) CROSS-RATIO IN A CONIC (/) (PONCELET). Compare painting #69 (1979.1093.44).

- Reference: This painting is based on a figure in James R. Newman,
*The World of Mathematics*(1956), p. 634. This volume was in the Crockett Johnson library. The figure on this page is annotated. For a figure on cross-ratios, see p. 632.

- Location
- Currently not on view

- date made
- 1966

- referenced
- Poncelet, Jean-Victor

- painter
- Johnson, Crockett

- ID Number
- 1979.1093.15

- catalog number
- 1979.1093.15

- accession number
- 1979.1093

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

## Painting -

*Law of Orbiting Velocity (Kepler)*- Description
- This work illustrates two laws of planetary motion proposed by the German mathematician Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) in his book
*Astronomia Nova*(*New Astronomy*) of 1609. Kepler argued that planets move about the sun in elliptical orbits, with the sun at one focus of the ellipse. He also claimed that a planet moves about the sun in such a way that a line drawn from the planet to the sun sweeps out equal areas in equal times. The ellipse in the work represents the path of a planet and the white sections equal areas. The extraordinary contrast between the deep blue and white colors dramatize this phenomenon.

- This oil painting on masonite has a wooden frame. It is signed: CJ65. It also is marked on the back: Crockett Johnson 1965 (/) LAW OF ORBITING VELOCITY (/) (KEPLER). It is #22 in the series. The work follows an annotated diagram from Crockett Johnson’s copy of Newman's
*The World of Mathematics*(1956), p. 231. Compare to paintings #76 (1979.1093.50) and #99 (1979.1093.66).

- Reference: Arthur Koestler,
*The Watershed*(1960).

- Location
- Currently not on view

- date made
- 1965

- referenced
- Kepler, Johannes

- painter
- Johnson, Crockett

- ID Number
- 1979.1093.16

- catalog number
- 1979.1093.16

- accession number
- 1979.1093

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

## Painting -

*Geometry of a Triple Bubble (Plateau)*- Description
- The Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau (1801–1883) performed a sequence of experiments using soap bubbles. One investigation led him to show that when two soap bubbles join, the two exterior surfaces and the interface between the two bubbles will all be spherical segments. Furthermore, the angles between these surfaces will be 120 degrees.

- Crockett Johnson's painting illustrates this phenomenon. It also displays Plateau's study of the situation that arises when three soap bubbles meet. Plateau discovered that when three bubbles join, the centers of curvature (marked by double circles in the figure) of the three overlapping surfaces are collinear.

- This painting was most likely inspired by a figure located in an article by C. Vernon Boys entitled "The Soap-bubble." James R. Newman included this essay in his book entitled
*The World of Mathematics*(p. 900). Crockett Johnson had this publication in his personal library, and the figure in his copy is annotated.

- The artist chose several pastel shades to illustrate his painting. This created a wide range of shades and tints that allows the painting to appear three-dimensional. Crockett Johnson chose to depict each sphere in its entirety, rather than showing just the exterior surfaces as Boys did. This helps the viewer visualize Plateau's experiment.

- This painting was executed in oil on masonite and has a wood and chrome frame. It is #23 in the series. It was completed in 1966 and is signed: CJ66. It is marked on the back: Crockett Johnson 1966 (/) GEOMETRY OF A TRIPLE BUBBLE (/) (PLATEAU).

- Location
- Currently not on view

- date made
- 1966

- referenced
- Plateau, Joseph

- painter
- Johnson, Crockett

- ID Number
- 1979.1093.17

- catalog number
- 1979.1093.17

- accession number
- 1979.1093

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

## Painting -

*Harmonic Series from a Quadrilateral (Pappus)*- Description
- The concept of a harmonic set of points can be traced back through Girard Desargues (1591–1661) and Pappus of Alexandria (3rd century AD) to Apollonius of Perga (240–190 BC). Crockett Johnson's painting seems to be based upon a figure associated with Pappus. It is likely that Crockett Johnson was inspired by a figure found in H. W. Turnbull's article "The Great Mathematicians" found in his copy of James R. Newman's
*The World of Mathematics*, p. 111. This figure is annotated.

- The construction begins with a given set of collinear points (A, B, and Y). An additional point (W) is sought such that AW, AB, and AY are in harmonic progression. That is, the terms AW, AB, and AY represent a progression of terms whose reciprocals form an arithmetic progression. To do this, any point Z, not on line AB, is chosen, and line segments ZA and ZB are constructed. Next, any point D, on ZA, is chosen, and DY, which will intersect ZB at C, is constructed. AC and DB intersect each other at X, and ZX will intersect AB at W. The location of point W is entirely independent of the choice of points Z and D. It follows that AW, AB, and AY form a harmonic progression, and thus the points A, W, B, and Y form a harmonic set.

- Crockett Johnson flipped the annotated image for his painting. The boldest portion of his painting, and thus the area with greatest interest, is the quadrilateral ABCD. In addition, the background of his painting is divided into three differently colored sections to illustrate the harmonic series constructed from the quadrilateral. This careful color choice reinforces the painting's title.

- This painting was executed in oil on masonite and is painting #24 in the series. It was completed in 1966 and is signed: CJ66. It is marked on the back: Crockett Johnson 1966 (/) HARMONIC SERIES FROM A QUADRILATERAL (/) (PAPPUS). It has a gray wooden frame.

- Location
- Currently not on view

- date made
- 1966

- referenced
- Pappus

- painter
- Johnson, Crockett

- ID Number
- 1979.1093.18

- catalog number
- 1979.1093.18

- accession number
- 1979.1093

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

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