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2010/1/410 Slide rule, Soho type, with single-sided closed frame and double-sided slide, laminated wood, designed for Boulton and Watt, Soho, Birmingham, England, 1779, made by Gravet Lenoir's successor company Tavernier and Vinay, Paris, France, 1870-1882. Click to enlarge.

Soho engineers’ slide rule

Made by Gravet-Lenoir in Paris, France, 1870-1892.
Because James Watt found steam engine design calculations irksome, in 1779 Matthew Boulton bought a slide rule for their firm. After using it, Watt commissioned the design of a slide rule with a set of scales suitable for his work. This became known as the Soho slide rule after the part of Birmingham where Boulton & Watt was located, and Gravet Lenoir in Paris made many rules to this design for engineers. This example was made by Gravet Lenoir's successor company, Tavernier and Vinay, between 1870 and 1882.

Debbie Rudder

Over the 19th and much of the 20th centuries the slide rule was the primary instrument for calculation used by many people engaged in the trades and in engineering. Although originally invented in the 17th century, and widely used for gauging (or estimating the quantities of certain products such as alcoholic spirits) it took until around 1850 for the slide rule to become generally popular. However for those engaged in estimating (ie, gauging) various quantities of goods in use in the liquor, building and agriculture trades, and for calculating the excise duty to be paid on these goods, numerous kinds of sliding rules with useful scales were developed.

This is an example of the "Soho" arrangement of scales designed by Boulton and Watt. They had acquired a slide rule from one John Rowley of London (according to Peter Hopp, p.33) and discovered that its accuracy was inadequate to the kind of calculations they and their workmen needed to make in the design of steam engines at their Soho works in Birmingham. So they went about designing a more accurate gradation of the scales, producing (in 1779) a new set of scales that though similar to the Coggeshall scales, consisting in the usual 2 cycle A, B and C scales with the D scale as a single cycle, were engraved on the closed frame type of slide rule body rather than Coggeshall's folding rule type slide rule body. This new slide rule type "became the standard Soho engineer's slide rule" [Hopp, p.15]

This slide rule is a Soho type made by Gravet Lenoir and has the Sine and Tangent scales and a line of equal parts on the reverse of the slide. The Lenoirs, father: Etienne, 1744-1832; and son: Paul Etienne, 1776-1827; were instrument makers in Paris. The father outlived the son, dying in 1832, at which time their company became Gravet Lenoir who produced slide rules from about 1832. The company Gravet Lenoir became known as one of the best slide rule makers in Europe.

Summary

Object No.

2010/1/410

Object Statement

Slide rule, Soho type, with single-sided closed frame and double-sided slide, laminated wood, designed for Boulton and Watt, Soho, Birmingham, England, 1779, made by Gravet Lenoir's successor company Tavernier and Vinay, Paris, France, 1870-1882

Physical Description

Slide rule, Soho type, with single-sided closed frame and double-sided slide, laminated wood, designed for Boulton and Watt, Soho, Birmingham, England, 1779, made by Gravet Lenoir's successor company Tavernier and Vinay, Paris, France, 1870-1882

This is a single-sided side rule with a closed frame and a double-sided slide, wood, dark brown in colour. The centre can slide out from the body. The scales are in the "Soho" arrangement.

Stock, upper: A (2 cycles of 1 - 10),
Slide, obverse: B, C, (as A)
Slide, reverse: S, T, line of equal parts (running inverted 0 - 1000)
Stock, lower: D (one cycle of 1 - 10)

Marks

Printed in black ink on front face: at top left, "GRAVEY LENOIR"; at lower centre, "38 RUE DE BABYLONE PARIS"; at top centre, "TAVERNIER & VINAY". Sticker on back inscribed in black ink, "Bromley / 1982-153".
Many lead pencil markings adorn the front and back faces, as well as white paint droplets on the back surface.
Under sliding centre rule is written in pen "Us H.W. 434, Ciro".

Dimensions

Width

30 mm

Depth

9 mm

Production

Made

Gravet-Lenoir Paris, France 1870-1892

Notes

The rule is marked with both the names Gravet Lenoir and Tavernier & Vinay and the address given is 39 rue de Babylone, Paris, which Tavernier & Vinay occupied between 1870 and 1882. Tavernier and Vinay was the successor to Gravet Lenoir, which had established a fine reputation for making slide rules. It is based on the Boulton and Watt 'Soho' design.

Boulton and Watt selected/commissioned it.

Source

Credit Line

Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program in memory of Associate Professor Allan Bromley, 2010

Acquisition Date

20 January 2010

Cite this Object

Harvard

Soho engineers' slide rule 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 28 May 2020, <https://ma.as/379808>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/379808 |title=Soho engineers' slide rule |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=28 May 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
This object is currently on display in Collection Gallery 4 at the Museums Discovery Centre.

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