Mathematical Treasure: Frederick A. P. Barnard's Calculating Machine

Peggy A. Kidwell (National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution)

Thomas Arithmometer owned by F. A. P. Barnard, 1867

Thomas Arithmometer, 1867, Smithsonian Institution negative number 87-6436.

The mathematician, natural philosopher and Columbia University president Frederick A. P. Barnard is perhaps best remembered for encouraging advanced education in New York City, inspiring the name of Barnard College. He also took an active interest in scientific and mathematical apparatus.

Barnard served as a judge at the Exposition universelle, the world’s fair held in Paris in 1867. There he saw arithmometers made on the design of the French insurance executive Charles Xavier Thomas. Thomas arithmometers were the first commercially successful calculating machines. Barnard arranged to have this one purchased for his office at Columbia.

These and other calculating machines from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History are now shown and described at the website

Index of Mathematical Treasures

Index of Mathematical Objects