Mathematical Treasure: Raymond Clare Archibald's Slide Rule

Amy Ackerberg-Hastings (University of Maryland University College)

A. W. Faber One-Sided Slide Rule Owned by R. C. Archibald

A. W. Faber Mannheim Simplex Slide Rule Owned By R. C. Archibald, 1900–1908, Smithsonian Institution negative number DOR2010-0283.

Raymond Clare Archibald (1875-1955) was born in Nova Scotia and attended Mount Allison College in New Brunswick. He then earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Harvard University. In 1898, he traveled to Germany, which was the destination for many North Americans of the time seeking higher education. He spent one academic year at the University of Berlin and one academic year at the University of Strasbourg, receiving his doctorate from the latter institution in 1900.

This slide rule was manufactured in Germany by the firm of A. W. Faber. It was made after June 1899, which is when a patent mentioned on the instrument was issued. Archibald thus may have purchased the rule while he was in Germany. However, the type of cursor (or runner) on the rule, with the dial for registering digits, was not added until 1905. Even if Archibald imported the rule after he returned to North America, he held on to it for the rest of his career.

That career was as one of the most prominent mathematicians of the first half of the 20th century. After teaching at Mount Allison for seven years, he served on the faculty of Brown University from 1908 to 1943. He built up the institution's library, was a charter member of the Mathematical Association of America and its president in 1922, served as councilor (1918–1941) and librarian (1922­–1941) of the American Mathematical Society, was twice elected vice president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and participated in the National Research Council. He contributed to the history of mathematics and the computation of mathematical tables.

This object and other slide rules from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History are now shown and described at the website

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