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Mathematical Treasures - Austrian weights

Frank J. Swetz and Victor J. Katz

Austrian weights

Nest of Austrian weights of the 18th century. Selected by D.E.Smith for his collection to illustrate the ancient, “Problem of Weights”. One example of this problem is given by Claude Bachet as:

What is the least number of weights that can be used on a scale pan to weigh any integral number of pounds from 1 to 40 inclusive, if the weights can be placed in either of the scale pans?

This particular set of weights is elaborately decorated and is one of the best specimens of the weight maker’s art of the period. It bears at least ten official seals, one of which contains the date 1787.

Index of Mathematical Treasures

Index of Mathematical Objects


Frank J. Swetz and Victor J. Katz, "Mathematical Treasures - Austrian weights," Convergence (January 2011)

Mathematical Treasures from the Smith and Plimpton Collections at Columbia University