I work in the library, of course, and so when I think of Miss Dean I naturally think of her in her role as the Rice librarian. Once in a while, though, I have cause to remember that she taught in the math department for just as long. I was recently looking through some of her files and I noticed a folder with an odd label: Factor Stencils. Inside the folder is some odd correspondence:
I get that this is something that will allow you to factor very large numbers, but still having a hard time grasping how it worked–what with its knobs, hinges, and all–I did the natural thing. I looked it up on the internet. And there I found a set in the Smithsonian. Even better, here’s a Youtube video that explains and demonstrates how the stencils work:
Only fifty sets were ever made. I wish I knew what became of ours.
Bonus: It’s pretty but the pollen is brutal this year.