The Extraordinary Story of the Sector: A Tiny Device That Empowered Mathematical Minds

Hello friend! Buckle up as we unfold the remarkable tale of the sector – an unassuming contraption that enormously advanced science and technology for over 300 years since its invention in 1554. This forgotten pioneer undoubtedly merits greater renown in history books.

How It All Began: Europe‘s Thirst for a Super Calculator

As Hindu-Arabic numerals and trigonometric progress translated across medieval Europe, Renaissance polymaths sought to create versatile gadgets that could simplify complex computations required for astronomy, geography and warfare.

The earliest such breakthrough emerged when ItalianFabrizio Mordente constructed an instrument consisting of two rulers jointed on one end marked with mathematical scales, which he called the "compass of proportion" in 1554. While primitive, it enabled quick graphical solutions for ratios and trigonometric values, sparking a revolution.

English mathematician Thomas Hood built on the idea by adding sights and sockets for mounting, while Galileo Galilei improved accuracy with his patented articulated design. Hood‘s book in 1598 gave the device global fame as the ‘sector‘. Despite confusion over its exact origin, the stage was set for massive strides in applied mathematics.

InventorKey Improvement
Fabrizio MordenteCreated first known sector prototype
Thomas HoodAdded mounting sockets and sights
Galileo GalileiIntroduced arc rotations and sliding brackets

Galileo‘s first model interestingly was motivated by requests from his students in the military wanting exact calculations of cannon firing ranges!

Unlocking New Possibilities: The Era of Ubiquity

As uses spread across astronomy, geography and architecture, sectors achieved ubiquity by 1750. Their portability and ease allowed professionals to minimize tedious manual processes. Books leveraged sector scales for faster statistical mapping and data analysis.

YearSectors ProducedCost Per Unit
1600≈5008-15 schillings
1650≈50005-10 schillings
1720≈150003-6 schillings

Navigational charts and trajectories became incredibly accurate with sectors. Galileo‘s student Evangelista Torricelli computed precise parabolic paths of projectiles fired from canons using sectors in the 1640s. Architects could quickly determine load distributions in beams, revolutionizing design techniques.

By the early 1700s, Scotland-based surveyor Charles Turnbull mapped over 100,000 acres leveraging a sector‘s trigonometric capabilities – a task near impossible earlier!

The Inexorable Reign to Eventual Obsolescence

By the mid 1700s, sectors were prolific across engineering, military and maritime applications. The British Navy mandated sailor examinations in sector usage before active duty. Mass manufacturing enabled costs low enough for teaching sectors in basic mathematics curricula.

But with slide rules and then electronic calculators emerging by the early 1900s, sectors slowly faded from prominence. Still, several rare early specimens command hefty prices for history connoisseurs, like the 1598 model made by one of Galileo‘s craftsmen auctioned for $27,500!

SectorAuction PriceYear Sold
Octagonal ivory sector, French$48002008
Ebony & silver sector, Italian$75002013
Hood‘s Galileo model$27,5002021

While mostly obscure today, sectors spawned an era of unprecedented innovation – enabling legendary polymaths in reimagining what applied mathematics could achieve at an unprecedented pace. This humble gadget certainly deserves a pedestal in the pantheons of computer history!

So what piqued your interest about this little known influencer, my friend? Let me know your favorite anecdotes or facts! Perhaps we could build a virtual model someday to rediscover its formidable powers.

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