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Napier's rods, 17th century.

Richardson, Claire

Napier's rods, 17th century.
3 4 c m
actual image size: 32cm x 26cm


John Napier (1550-1617), discoverer of logarithms, created the popular calculating tool known as Napier's rods or bones. Napier's rods reduced muliplication to a sequence of simple additions; division and square roots could also be achieved. This instrument consists of a wooden box containing ten rotating cylinders each of which bears the numbers '0 times' to '9 times'. These sets would have been made to order for a wealthy client and regarded more as an adornment and status symbol than as tools for practitioners.

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© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

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