Oughtred Society
2005 East Coast Meeting
at the MIT Museum

A Report

by Tom Wyman, Louis Gotlib and Ed Chamberlain

Those who attended the Oughtred Society East Coast meeting November 11-13 enjoyed a special occasion since the meeting was held at the MIT Museum in Cambridge, MA. Among the series of scheduled events, museum curator and Oughtred Society member Dr. Deborah Douglas treated attendees to a behind-the-scenes look at the slide rule collection of the Keuffel & Esser Company, recently acquired by the MIT Museum. This immense collection remains to be catalogued, but it is clear from even a superficial examination that it contains many unusual specimens that will require careful study.

Friday afternoon there was a well-attended public session entitled "All About Slide Rules" where two papers on slide rules were presented: "Yesterday's Calculator" by Tom Wyman and "The Slide Rule: Calculating by Mind and Hand" by Dr. Joe Pasquale, who teaches a slide rule course at the University of California at San Diego. Between the talks, Ed Chamberlain showed several types of slide rules and demonstrated how simple calculations are made with each. One lucky youngster was delighted to be presented a slide rule of his own.

During the members' meeting on Saturday, attendees viewed numerous excellent member-sponsored show-and-tell displays. In addition, there was the traditional opportunity to buy, sell and swap both slide rules and slide rule-related literature, and a short but spirited auction was held with some interesting slide rules and books drawing lively bidding. Bob Otnes presented a paper on William Cox, Ed Chamberlain on the Goodchild Rule (especially interesting since attendees were able to view the only known example of this rule, which is in the MIT Museum collection), and Dr. Joseph Pasquale on teaching slide rules in the university today. During the business meeting, Bob Otnes was awarded a well-deserved plaque for his many contributions to the Oughtred Society, including serving as editor of the Journal since it was first published in 1991.

After the formal program, Dr. Douglas led members on an interesting, wide-ranging tour of the museum, followed by a wine and cheese reception and dinner at a nearby restaurant. There was ample opportunity to talk with long-time friends and to meet new friends.

On Sunday morning attendees were invited to meet at the nearby yet-to-be-opened museum housing the Harvard Scientific Instrument Collection, the high point of which was the opportunity to examine one of William Oughtred's original circular slide rules in the museum's collection. Upon seeing this wonderful relic, one member was heard irreverently to ask, "When's the auction?"

It was a well-planned, interesting weekend, and members are already wondering what can be done next year as a follow-on to this year's informative and enjoyable conference.

Image Description

Images by Christine L. Howe (CLH) and Debbie G. Douglas (DGD).
(click on each image for the full-sized version)

Gerd Keuffel with a bust of his great-grandfather, W.J.D. Keuffel (1838-1908), company founder. (CLH)

Joe Pasquale presenting. (DGD)

Tom Wyman presenting. (DGD)

Harold Frost's K&E planimeters display table. (CLH)

Bruce Babcock at his display table for the calculation of engine horsepower. (DGD)

Zack Fluhr's circular slide rules display table. (CLH)

Debbie Douglas (white gloves) shows the K&E factory cabinet drawers. Gerd Keuffel is at her right and Al Mason at her left. (CLH)

Drawers 1 and 2 from the K&E factory cabinet. (DGD)

Drawers 60 and 61 from the K&E factory cabinet. (DGD)

Auctioning, with (L to R) Clark McCoy, Ed Chamberlain, and Zack Fluhr. (DGD)

compiled by Jim Cerny