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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 2033 items.

Page 5 of 204

## 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

## Painting -

*Bouquet of Triangle Theorems (Euclid)*- Description
- The mathematician Euclid lived around 300 BC, probably in Alexandria in what is now Egypt. Like most western scholars of his day, he wrote in Greek. Euclid prepared an introduction to mathematics known as
*The Elements*. It was an eminently successful text, to the extent that most of the works he drew on are now lost. Translations of parts of*The Elements*were used in geometry teaching well into the nineteenth century in both Europe and the United States.

- Euclid and other Greek geometers sought to prove theorems from basic definitions, postulates, and previously proven theorems. The book examined properties of triangles, circles, and more complex geometric figures. Euclid's emphasis on axiomatic structure became characteristic of much later mathematics, even though some of his postulates and proofs proved inadequate.

- To honor Euclid's work, Crockett Johnson presented not a single mathematical result, but what he called a bouquet of triangular theorems. He did not state precisely which theorems relating to triangles he intended to illustrate in his painting, and preliminary drawings apparently have not survived. At the time, he was studying and carefully annotating Nathan A. Court's book
*College Geometry*(1964). Court presents several theorems relating to lines through the midpoints of the side of a triangle that are suggested in the painting. The midpoints of the sides of the large triangle in the painting are joined to form a smaller one. According to Euclid, a line through two midpoints of sides of a triangle is parallel to the third side. Thus the construction creates a triangle similar to the initial triangle, with one fourth the area (both the height and the base of the initial triangle are halved). In the painting, triangles of this smaller size tile the plane. All three of the lines joining midpoints create triangles of this small size, and the large triangle at the center has an area four times as great.

- The painting also suggests properties of the medians of the large triangle, that is to say, the lines joining each midpoint to the opposite vertex. The three medians meet in a point (point G in the figure from Court). It is not difficult to show that point G divides each median into two line segments, one twice as long as the other.

- To focus attention on the large triangle, Crockett Johnson executed it in shades of white against a background of smaller dark black and gray triangles.

*Bouquet of Triangle Theorems*apparently is the artist's own construction. It was painted in oil or acrylic and is #26 in the series. It was completed in 1966 and is signed: CJ66. It is signed on the back: Crockett Johnson 1966 (/) BOUQUET OF TRIANGLE THEOREMS (/) (EUCLID).

- Reference: Nathan A. Court,
*College Geometry*, (1964 printing), p. 65. The figure on this page is not annotated.

- Location
- Currently not on view

- date made
- 1966

- referenced
- Euclid

- painter
- Johnson, Crockett

- ID Number
- 1979.1093.19

- catalog number
- 1979.1093.19

- accession number
- 1979.1093

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

## Painting -

*Point Collineation in the Triangle (Euler)*- Description
- Leonhard Euler (1707–1783) was the most prolific mathematician of the eighteenth century. He made significant contributions to geometry, calculus, mechanics, and number theory. He produced more than 800 publications during his lifetime, almost half of which were dictated after his eyesight failed in 1766. While Euler is best remembered for his contributions to analysis and mechanics, his interests included geometry. This figure illustrates a theorem about triangles associated with his name.

- Euler showed that three points related to a triangle lie on a common line. The first is the circumcenter (point O in the figure), the intersection of the perpendicular bisectors of the three sides. This point is the center of the circle which passes through the vertices of the triangle. Johnson also constructed the three medians of the triangle and the three altitudes of the triangle. The medians intersect in a common point (point N in the figure) and the altitudes meet at a third point (H in the figure). These three points, Euler showed, lie on the same line. In the painting, Crockett Johnson also constructed the circle that circumscribes the triangle, as well as a circle of half the radius known as the nine-point circle. For a full description of this circle, see painting #75 (1979.1093.49).

- In the painting, the circumcircle is centered exactly on the backing, and the Euler line extends from the lower right corner to the upper left corner. This divides the work into two triangles of equal area. The right half of the painting was executed in shades of red and purple, while the left half of the painting was executed in shades of gray and black. Crockett Johnson also joined the nine points of the nine-point circle to form an irregular polygon.

- This oil painting on masonite is #28 in the series. There is a wooden frame painted black. The work was completed in 1966 and is signed: CJ66. It is signed on the back: Crockett Johnson 1966 (/) POINT COLLINEATION IN THE TRIANGLE (/) (EULER). For a related painting, see #75 (1979.1093.49).

- Reference: Nathan A. Court,
*College Geometry*(1964 printing), p. 103, cover. The figure on p. 103 is annotated.

- Location
- Currently not on view

- date made
- 1966

- referenced
- Euler, Leonhard

- painter
- Johnson, Crockett

- ID Number
- 1979.1093.20

- catalog number
- 1979.1093.20

- accession number
- 1979.1093

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

## Painting -

*Every Positive Integer (Gauss)*- Description
- This painting is loosely based on a theorem proven by the German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777–1855) in 1776 when he was just nineteen years old. The proposition, one of Gauss’s many contributions to the branch of mathematics called number theory, states that every positive integer is the sum of three triangular numbers. The concept of triangular numbers dates to antiquity. Suppose one arranges dots in rows, with one in the first row, two in the second, three in the first and so forth. Three dots form a triangle, as do 6 dots, 10 dots, and 15 dots. The numbers 3, 6, 10, 15, and so forth are called "triangular numbers." The integers 0 and 1 are thought of as special cases of triangular numbers.

- Crockett Johnson derived his painting from an entry in Gauss's diary published in an article by Eric Temple Bell included by James R. Newman in his book
*The World of Mathematics*(1956), p. 304. The entry includes the phrase EUREKA in Greek, and indicates that any positive integer is the sum of three triangular numbers.

- Crockett Johnson’s painting abstractly represents this theorem through the juxtaposition of three triangles. The triangles are equal, but each figure is painted a different color. It is possible that the artist chose to illustrate each triangle in its own color to demonstrate that each triangle generally represents its own triangular number when computing a positive integer. However, the triangles are congruent, which reminds the viewer that the triangles are related because they all represent a triangular number.

- This work was painted in oil on masonite, completed in 1966, and is signed: CJ66. It is marked on the back: Crockett Johnson 1966 (/) EVERY POSITIVE INTEGER (/) (GAUSS). It is painting #29 in the series, and has a wooden frame.

- Reference: J. R. Newman,
*The World of Mathematics*, 1956, p. 304.

- Location
- Currently not on view

- date made
- 1966

- referenced
- Gauss, Carl Friedrich

- painter
- Johnson, Crockett

- ID Number
- 1979.1093.21

- catalog number
- 1979.1093.21

- accession number
- 1979.1093

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

## Painting -

*Transversals (Ceva)*- Description
- A transversal is a line that intersects a system of other lines or line segments. Here Crockett Johnson explores the properties of certain transversals of the sides of a triangle. The Italian mathematician Giovanni Ceva showed in 1678 that lines drawn from a point to the vertices of a triangle divide the edges of the triangle into six segments such that the product of the length of three nonconsecutive segments equals the product of the remaining three segments.

- This painting shows a triangle (in white), lines drawn from a point inside the triangle to the three vertices, and a line drawn from a point outside the triangle (toward the bottom of the painting) to the three vertices. Segments of the sides of the triangle to be multiplied together are of like color. Crockett Johnson's painting combines two diagrams on page 159 of Nathan Court's
*College Geometry*(1964 printing). These diagrams are annotated in his copy of the volume. Several of the triangles adjacent to the central triangle were used by Court in his proof of Ceva's theorem.

- The painting is #31 in the series. It is signed: CJ66. There is a wooden frame painted off-white.

- Location
- Currently not on view

- date made
- 1966

- referenced
- Ceva, Giovanni

- painter
- Johnson, Crockett

- ID Number
- 1979.1093.22

- catalog number
- 1979.1093.22

- accession number
- 1979.1093

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

## Painting -

*One Surface and One Edge (Möbius)*- Description
- Most geometric surfaces have a distinct inside and outside. This painting shows one that doesn’t. Take a strip of material, give it a half-twist, and attach the ends together. The result is a band with only one surface and one edge. Mathematicians began to explore such surfaces in the nineteenth century. In 1858 German astronomer and mathematician August Ferdinand Möbius (1790–1868), who had studied theoretical astronomy under Carl Friedrich Gauss at the University of Goettingen, discovered the one-sided surface shown in the painting. It has come to be known by his name. As often happens in the history of mathematics, another scholar, Johann Benedict Listing, had found the same result a few months earlier. Listing did not publish his work until 1861.

- If one attaches the ends of a strip of paper without a half twist, the resulting figure is a cylinder. The cylinder has two sides such that one can paint the outside surface red and the inside surface green. If you try to paint the outside surface of a Möbius band red you will paint the entire band red without crossing an edge. Similarly, if you try to paint the inside surface of a Möbius band green you will paint the entire surface green. A cylinder has an upper edge and a lower edge. However, if you start at a point on the edge of a Möbius band you will trace out its entire edge and return to the point at which you began. Since Möbius's time, mathematicians have discovered and explored many other one-sided surfaces.

- This painting, #34 in the series, was executed in oil on masonite and is signed: CJ65. The strip is shown in three shades of gray based on the figure’s position. The shades of gray, especially the lightest shade, are striking against the rose-colored background, and this contrast allows the viewer to focus on the properties of the Möbius band. The painting has a wooden frame.

- Crockett Johnson's painting is similar to illustrations in James R. Newman's
*The World of Mathematics*(1956), p. 596. However, the figures are not annotated in the artist's copy of the book.

- Location
- Currently not on view

- date made
- 1965

- referenced
- Moebius, August Ferdinand

- painter
- Johnson, Crockett

- ID Number
- 1979.1093.23

- catalog number
- 1979.1093.23

- accession number
- 1979.1093

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

## Painting -

*Simple Equation (Descartes)*- Description
- In a pathbreaking book
*La Géométrie*, René Descartes (1596–1650) described how to perform algebraic operations using geometric methods. One such explanation is the subject of this Crockett Johnson painting. More specifically, Descartes described geometrical methods for finding the roots of simple polynomials. He wrote (as translated from the original French): "Finally, if I have z² = az -b², I make NL equal to (1/2)a and LM equal to b as before: then, instead of joining the points M and N, I draw MQR parallel to LN, and with N as center describe a circle through L cutting MQR in the points Q and R; then z, the line sought, is either MQ or MR, for in this way it can be expressed in two ways, namely: z = (1/2)a + √((1/4)a² - b²) and z = (1/2)a - √((1/4)a² - b²)."

- To verify that z = MR is a solution to the equation z²= az - b², note that the square of the length of the tangent ML equals the product of the two line segments MQ and MR. As ML is defined to equal b, its square is b squared. The length of MR is z, and the length of MQ is the difference between the diameter of the circle (length a) and the segment MR, that is to say (a – z) . Hence b squared equals z (a – z) which, on rearrangement of terms, gives the result desired.

- Crockett Johnson's painting directly imitates Descartes's figure found in Book I of
*La Géométrie*. A translation of part of Book I is found in the artist’s copy of James R. Newman's*The World of Mathematics*. The figure on page 250 is annotated.

- This oil or acrylic painting on masonite is #36 in the series. It was completed in 1966 and is signed: CJ66. It has a wooden frame.

- Location
- Currently not on view

- date made
- 1966

- referenced
- Descartes, Rene

- painter
- Johnson, Crockett

- ID Number
- 1979.1093.24

- catalog number
- 1979.1093.24

- accession number
- 1979.1093

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

## Painting -

*Logarithms*- Description
- This painting illustrates two different kinds of mathematical progressions, the geometric (on the top) and the arithmetic (on the bottom). Going across the top from left to right each section is twice as wide as the previous one, as in a geometric progression. Going across the bottom from right to left, each section is 1 unit wider than the previous one, as in an arithmetic progression.

- If the width of the top sections, considered going from left to right, represents the numbers a, 2a, 4a, and 8a in a geometric progression, then the width of the bottom sections, going right to left, can represent logarithms of these numbers, b = log a, 2b =2 log a, 3b = 3 log a, and 4b =4 log a. Crockett Johnson may have sought to illustrate an account of logarithms given in an article by H. W. Turnbull in Newman's
*Men of Mathematics*. This painting does not represent the traditional divisions of either a slide rule or a ruler.

- The Scottish nobleman John Napier published his discovery of logarithms in 1614. The painting suggests how logarithms allow one to reduce multiplication (as in the terms of a geometric progression) to addition (as in the terms of an arithmetic progression). As addition is far simpler than multiplication, logarithms were widely used by people carrying out calculations from the seventeenth century onward.

- The painting is #37 in the series. It is in oil or acrylic on masonite, and is signed: CJ66. There is a gray wooden frame.

- Reference: H. W. Turnbull, “The Great Mathematicians,” in James R. Newman,
*The World of Mathematics*, (1956), p. 124. This volume was in Crockett Johnson's library, but the figure is not annotated.

- Location
- Currently not on view

- date made
- 1966

- referenced
- Napier, John

- painter
- Johnson, Crockett

- ID Number
- 1979.1093.25

- catalog number
- 1979.1093.25

- accession number
- 1979.1093

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

## Painting -

*Polar Line of a Point and a Circle (Apollonius)*- Description
- In 1966, Crockett Johnson carefully read Nathan A. Court's book
*College Geometry*, selecting diagrams that he thought would be suitable for paintings. In the chapter on harmonic division, he annotated several figures that relate to this painting. The work shows two orthoganol circles, that is to say two circles in which the square of the line of centers equals the sum of the squares of the radii. A right triangle formed by the line of centers and two radii that intersect is shown. The small right triangle in light purple in the painting is this triangle.

- Crockett Johnson's painting combines a drawing of this triangle with a more complex figure used in a discussion of further properties of lines drawn in orthoganal circles. In particular, suppose that one draws a line segment from a point outside a circle that intersects it in two points, and selects a fourth point on the line that divides the segment harmonically. For a single exterior point, all these such points lie on a single line, perpendicular to the line of centers of the two circles, which is called the polar line.

- The painting is #38 in the series. It has a background in two shades of cream, and a light tan wooden frame. It shows two circles that overlap slightly and have various sections. The circles are in shades of blue, purple and cream. The painting is signed: CJ66.

- References: Nathan A. Court,
*College Geometry*(1964 printing), p. 175–78. This volume was in Crockett Johnson's library.

- T. L. Heath, ed.,
*Apollonius of Perga: Treatise on Conic Sections*(1961 reprint). This volume was not in Crockett Johnson's library.

- Location
- Currently not on view

- date made
- 1966

- referenced
- Apollonius of Perga

- painter
- Johnson, Crockett

- ID Number
- 1979.1093.26

- catalog number
- 1979.1093.26

- accession number
- 1979.1093

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

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