Mathematical Table, The Macmillan Table Slide Rule

John Perry Ballantine (1896–1970), a mathematician on the faculty of the University of Washington, published this set of tables in 1931 as an inexpensive alternative to the slide rule. The paper instrument includes two 8-1/2” x 11” (22.3 cm. x 28 cm) cards which have printed tables on both sides. These are for multiplication, finding powers of numbers, sines, and tangents. Four narrower tables are placed next to these. Two of these are for multiplication, one for division and one for square root. Each of the wider tables has 20 columns of numbers in 100 rows. The narrower ones have ten columns of numbers in ten rows. Tables are based on antilogarithms to base 10. A leaflet of instructions and a paper dust cover are included.
This example was the property of Oscar W. Richards of the Osborn Zoological Laboratory of Yale University. It is marked with his stamp. A mark on the corner reads: THE MACMILLAN (/) TABLE SLIDE RULE. Another mark there reads: New York (/) THE MACMILLAN COMPANY (/) 1931.
Ballantine was born in Rahuri, India, the son of a medical missionary and a teacher. He graduated from Harvard in 1918 and then taught briefly at the University of Maine, Pennsylvania State College, and the University of Michigan. He attended graduate school at the University of Chicago, where he met and married fellow graduate student and mathematician Constance Rummons. They both received doctorates from Chicago in 1923. J. P. Ballantine then spent three years teaching at Columbia University before joining the faculty of the University of Washington in 1926. He stayed there, except for a stint in American military schools, until his retirement in 1966.
Ballantine’s slide rule was reviewed in the Journal of the American Statistical Association, the American Mathematical Monthly, and the British educational journal Mathematical Gazette. It cost only fifty cents, but, as reviewers pointed out, was less portable and less durable than a conventional slide rule. No second edition was required.
Ballantine did not limit his interest in technical improvement to classroom devices. In 1932, he applied for a patent relating to electric power meters, receiving it in 1935. In 1938, he published the textbook Essentials of Engineering Mathematics. Neither of these projects was particularly influential.
Advertisement, The American Mathematical Monthly, 38 (May 1931), unnumbered page.
E. J. Atkinson, “The Macmillan Table Slide Rule,” reviewed in The Mathematical Gazette, 16 (May 1932), pp. 140–141.
Dorothy C. Bacon, “The Macmillan Table Slide Rule,” reviewed in Journal of the American Statistical Association, 26 (Sept 1931), p 373–374.
J. P. Ballantine, “Multiple-rate Power Metering,” U.S. Patent #2000736, May 7, 1935.
R. E. Gilman, “The Macmillan Table Slide rule,” reviewed in The American Mathematical Monthly, 39 (May 1932), pp. 295–296.
J. Green and J. LaDuke, Pioneering Women in American Mathematics: the Pre-1940 PhD’s, Providence: American Mathematical Society, 2009, pp. 131–132.
Currently not on view
date made
place made
United States: New York, New York
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: .5 cm x 22.5 cm x 28 cm; 3/16 in x 8 27/32 in x 11 1/32 in
ID Number
nonaccession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Oscar W. Richards
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Mathematical Charts and Tables
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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