Accession No


Brief Description

boxed set of geometrical solids (models), by George Adams Snr., English, c. 1750


England; London; Fleet Street; Tycho Brahe’s Head


Adams, George (Snr.)


mathematics; demonstration

Earliest Date

Jan. 1, 1750

Latest Date

Dec. 31, 1750

Inscription Date


wood (mahogany and two others); metal (brass, iron); ivory


cabinet breadth 275mm; depth 212mm; height 243mm

Special Collection

Robert Whipple collection


Purchased from Antique Art Galleries, Grafton Street, on 03/08/1927.


Made by GEORGE ADAMS at TYCHO BRAHE’s HEAD in FLEET STREET LONDON,’ (ivory insets on doors of cabinet)

Description Notes

Boxed set of geometrical solids by George Adams, c.1750

Wooden box with mahogany veneer, brass handles and two doors with brass hinges and lock (iron key). Inset into front of doors are shaped ivory plaques containing inscription (see above). Doors open to reveal three drawers with brass handles. Drawers divided into sections and labelled on ivory insets with the relevant propositions from Books XI and XII of Euclid’s Geometry. Drawers contain 105 solids which can be used to demonstrate these propositions (some are made up of two parts). The solids are marked with the relevant book and proposition numbers as well as with letters to label certain points on the solids.



Mike Rich; 'Wooden geometric models made by George Adams'; Explore Whipple Collections online article; Whipple Museum of the History of Science; University of Cambridge; 2006:


The geometrical solids housed in this smart cabinet were intended as instructional tools in the teaching of geometry. They served the same purpose as diagrams in a textbook, but provided the advantage of three-dimensional reference. Handling a model makes spatial relationships more readily apparent and circumvents some of the confusion that diagrams sometimes present.

During the eighteenth century the standard textbook for learning geometry was Euclid’s Elements of Geometry. Amazingly, Elements of Geometry had been the main text for geometrical training since Euclid first compiled it in the 3rd century B.C. It was composed of thirteen books: the eleventh and twelfth books address ‘solid geometry’. The models produced by George Adams senior (bap. 1709, d. 1772) were designed to help interpret the diagrams in Euclid’s books.

Being such an elaborate set of solids, it is likely that these models were used in private tuition; however, it could also function as a display set. Mathematics in the eighteenth century was a fashionable activity that demonstrated “good taste”. During this period, educational and aesthetic functions were not entirely separate. Being an attractive set, the models would have made learning more pleasurable.

Earlier sets of geometrical solids were often made to illustrate the ‘Platonic solids’ – the cube, tetrahedron, octahedron, dodecahedron and icosahedron. These were often regarded as having mystical significance. The astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571–1631) used their properties as a basis for astronomical and astrological theories. Later sets of solids were often used for learning about the different crystals found in minerals.

Created by: edited by Allison Ksiazkiewicz on 11/03/2014


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