Accession No

1658


Brief Description

Suanpan abacus, Japanese


Origin

Japan


Maker


Class

mathematics; calculating


Earliest Date

None


Latest Date

None


Inscription Date


Material

wood (at least four types)


Dimensions

length 541mm; breadth 129mm; height 64mm


Special Collection


Provenance

Purchased H. Wynter, 352 King’s Road, Chelsea, London, England, in 03/1974.


Inscription


Description Notes

Suanpan (aka Suan Pan) abacus, Japanese.

Wooden abacus with 27 rods, each with 5 shaped beads below division and 2 above. Division bar marked with characters for each rod. Wooden sliding plate underneath rods, one side painted red, the other black with characters. Three bracing bars under plate and two above.
Wooden box with inscription on lid.

Condition good (one rod broken); complete


References

Mikey McGovern; 'A brief history of calculating devices'; Explore Whipple Collections online article; Whipple Museum of the History of Science; University of Cambridge: https://www.whipplemuseum.cam.ac.uk/explore-whipple-collections/calculating-devices/brief-history-calculating-devices


Events

Description
Abacus
The abacus was used for calculations too complicated to be done in the head, as a quicker alternative to using a pencil and paper. The word abacus comes from the Greek word for flat surface and originally it was simply a surface for putting pebbles on. However, many different types have developed and many involve beads running along wires or grooves. All use the principle of different columns of counters representing different units or collections of units e.g. one column for hundreds, one for tens, one for units etc.

The abacus can be thought of as an early predecessor of today’s digital computers.

20/10/2002
Created by: Saffron Clackson on 20/10/2002


FM:39538

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