Geometric Model, L. Brill No. 148 (?). Ser. 10 No. 1i?, Minimal Surface


Students at the technical high school in Munich, working under the direction of Alexander Brill, developed a series of wire models of minimal surfaces that was first published by Ludwig Brill in 1885. A minimal surface is the surface of smallest area of all the surfaces bounded by a closed curve in space. Its mean curvature is zero. Minimal surfaces are often represented by soap films, as was the intention with this model. It is one of a series. The model is in the shape of a four-sided prism with near rectangular sides. Half of its edges are missing, and the edges at the bottom are curved. There is a handle at the top. Either model 1985.0112.114 of model 1985.112.115 may be Brill Ser. 10 No. 1i. That model was designed to illustrate one of the surfaces proposed by the German mathematician Heinrich Scherk (1798-1885) in a paper of 1835.

This example was exhibited at the Columbian Exposition, a world’s fair held in Chicago in 1893.


L. Brill, Catalog mathematischer Modelle. . ., Darmstadt: L. Brill,1892, p. 21, 85.

G. Fischer, Mathematical Models: Commentary, Braunschweig / Wiesbaden: Friedr. Vieweg & Sohn, 1986, pp. 41-43.

Scherk, H.F., “Bemerkungen über die kleinste Fläche innerhalb gegebener Grenzen,” Journal fuer die reine und angewandte Mathematik, 13, 1835, pp. 185-208. This article is mentioned in the Brill catalog.

Date Made: 1892

Maker: L. Brill

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: Germany: Hesse, Darmstadt

Subject: Mathematics


See more items in: Medicine and Science: Mathematics, Science & Mathematics


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of Wesleyan University

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1985.0112.114Catalog Number: 1985.0112.114Accession Number: 1985.0112

Object Name: Geometric Modelgeometric model

Physical Description: metal (overall material)Measurements: overall: 19.7 cm x 6.3 cm x 7 cm; 7 3/4 in x 2 15/32 in x 2 3/4 in


Record Id: nmah_693990

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