French-Style Sector Signed by Nicolas Bion

This small, one-sided brass sector has two flat rectangular arms, hinged at one end. A flower decorates the hinge. The instrument has double scales of chords, running from 10 to 90, and of specific weights for five metals, marked with their symbols. The outer edge has a scale that runs from 1/4 to 33 and is labeled Pouts [sic] des boulets. The instrument is marked: N Bion (/) A –Paris. The signature is slightly different from the one on the other sector from Bion's workshop in the collection, 1985.0580.05.
Nicolas Bion (c. 1652–1733) made and sold mathematical instruments in Paris in his own shop and as royal maker for Louis XIV. He included a lengthy discussion of sectorial scales in his famous 1709 manual on the construction and use of mathematical instruments. Bion's son, Jean-Baptiste, took over the shop in 1731.
The Smithsonian acquired this sector in 1962 from Jacob (Jake) Zeitlin and Josephine Ver Brugge Zeitlin, who operated a rare books store for over 40 years in West Hollywood, Calif.
References: Nicolas Bion, Traité de la construction et des principaux usages des instruments de mathematique (Paris, 1709), 29–74; Gloria Clifton, Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers 1550-1851 (London: National Maritime Museum, 1995), 2–3; Beverly Beyette, "Zeitlin Auction: A Bittersweet Final Chapter," Los Angeles Times, February 4, 1988; Mary Rourke, "Josephine Ver Brugge Zeitlin, 90; Sold Rare Books, Journals," Los Angeles Times, February 26, 2005.
Currently not on view
date made
Bion, Nicholas
place made
France: Île-de-France, Paris
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
overall: .2 cm x 8.5 cm x 1.8 cm; 3/32 in x 3 11/32 in x 23/32 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Rule, Calculating
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


Add a comment about this object