Silas P. Cornu's Dry Calculator

Henry Hering | published Jan, 1898

added May 29, 2024
cover Image
First Date of Publication
Jan, 1898
Original Source
The Windsor Magazine
Additional Publication Information
Available in "The Windsor Magazine", Vol VII, Dec 1897 to May 1898
Original Source Type
Magazine - Old
Short Story
Original Language
Kasman Review
Summary: One of those stories where a spectacular gadget fails…spectacularly…

Story Tag Line: So he went home, an’ in a few months he had turned out an attractive lookin’ article— somethin’ between a sewin’ machine an’ a box-organ — as would do anythin’ in simple addition for twenty-five dollars. An extra ten dollars you could add a switch which would include multiplication, an’ there Silas stuck. He couldn’t tack on division or subtraction, no matter how many dollars you’d plank down.

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  • Vijay Fafat
    Published on

    A very hilarious short story about a man who wants to build a mechanical calculator to evaluate logarithms but has success building a machine that can do only addition and multiplication. On the other hand is the “Athens University”, a place of learning which has decided that “figgering” (Mathematics) was quite worthless compared to studying “Homer, Venus and J. Caesar”. Resultantly, people in and around the university forget the art of even simple addition. Cornu’s machine naturally finds wide acceptance in the town. All’s well till some unscrupulous merchant puts oil in the “dry” calculator and starts cheating; for the calculator starts overstating simple sums when the gears are oiled. Some mayhem ensues before the university comes to its senses and starts offering basic Math courses.

    The dialogue is punchy and the descriptions quite funny; I couldn’t stop smiling throughout the story…There are other Silas Cornu’s stories available on Google books, though none other is mathfiction as far as I know.