Museum Monday: Math at the SFO Museum

All photos Courtesy SFO Museum

The SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has kicked off yet another exhibition that might make you miss your next flight. This one is all about mathematics.

Courtesy SFO Museum

Mathematics: Vintage and Modern displays slide rules, early calculating machines, and other math-related objects from the past. Included are teaching tools that help students learn arithmetic, geometry, and calculus, as well as vintage children’s toys and games. To make brains work harder, several works of art in this exhibit demonstrate complex mathematics through sculptural forms. Examples from modern math—knot theory, topology, and ambiguous models—illustrate how math deals with the very dimensions of space. 

Klein Bottle by Cliff Stoll

Here are some more images from the exhibit.

Thacher’s calculating instrument  c. 1903
Millionaire calculating machine  c. 1904

Today we use our lightweight telephones as calculators. But in 1893, Swiss engineer Otto Steigler’s invention, the Millionaire, likely seemed miraculous.

“Made of brass and weighing sixty-seven pounds, this revolutionary machine could perform a direct multiplication,” the exhibit notes tell us. “With a single turn of the hand crank, it multiplied two numbers together and calculated results up to eighteen digits. For decades, banks balanced their books and figured compound interest on Millionaires. “

Rubik’s Cube and other mathematical puzzles

Mathematics: Vintage and Modern is located post-security in Terminal 2 of San Francisco International Airport through May 1, 2022.

The exhibition is accessible to ticketed passengers but non-ticketed guests can arrange access by emailing curator@flysfo.com,

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