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The Slide Rule

An elegant and simple tool for solving basic mathematical equations, the slide rule was indispensable to generations of engineering students. Today most slide rules are collector’s items found in antique shops. Many students don’t know what they are and how to use them.

Slide rules come in many shapes, sizes and types. The most common is the Mannheim, basically a long stick with a moveable centerpiece and cursor. There also are circular and cylindrical slide rules.

A large slide rule used by engineering students in the 1920s and 1930s now hangs on a wall in the Engineering Mechanics Department. Charles F. Fowler, a plant engineer at the University of Nebraska, helped construct it for an E-Week display. The slide rule is 5 ft 4 inches long and 8 inches wide.

For years it hung on the south wall of the second floor of the Mechanical Arts Building. The slide rule was low enough for engineering students to use — and many did. When the building was slated for demolition, the slide rule was nearly thrown out. Fowler rescued it and it remained in storage for many years.

Please stop by the department on the third floor of Nebraska Hall to take a look at this engineering artifact.

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