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

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

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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.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Geometric Model
geometric model
date made
L. Brill
place made
Germany: Hesse, Darmstadt
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
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
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Wesleyan University
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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