Mathematica: A World of Numbers... and Beyond

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Large Möbius strip with traveling arrow

Mathematica: A World of Numbers…and Beyond is an interactive exhibition originally shown at the California Museum of Science and Industry. Duplicates have since been made, and they (as well as the original) have been moved to other institutions.


Multiplication machine in the exhibit.
Pseudosphere model on display.

In March, 1961 a new science wing at the California Museum of Science and Industry[1] in Los Angeles opened. The IBM Corporation had been asked by the Museum to make a contribution; IBM in turn asked the famous California designer team of Charles Eames and his wife Ray Eames to come up with a good proposal. The result was that the Eames Office was commissioned by IBM to design an interactive exhibition called Mathematica: A World of Numbers... and Beyond.[2] This was the first of many exhibitions designed by the Eames Office.

The 3,000-square-foot (280 m2) exhibition stayed at the Museum until January 1998, making it the longest running of any corporate sponsored museum exhibition.[3] Furthermore, it is the only one of the dozens of exhibitions designed by the Office of Charles and Ray Eames that is still extant. This original Mathematica exhibition was reassembled for display at the Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, July 30 through October 1, 2000. It is now owned by and on display at the New York Hall of Science.[4]


In November, 1961 an exact duplicate was made for Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, where it was shown until late 1980. From there it was relocated to the Museum of Science in Boston, Massachusetts, where it is permanently on display. In January 2014 the exhibit temporarily closed in order for it to undergo much needed refurbishment. [5]

Another copy was made for the IBM Exhibit at the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair.[6] Subsequently it was briefly on display in New York City, and then installed in the Pacific Science Center in Seattle where it stayed until 1980. It was then moved to SciTrek in Atlanta, but that organization was shut down in 2004 due to funding cuts. As of 2013, the status of this last copy is unclear, but individual pieces may have been dispersed for exhibition separately.

Men of Modern Mathematics poster[edit]

In 1966, five years after the opening of the Mathematica Exhibit, IBM published a 2-by-12-foot (0.61 m × 3.66 m) timeline poster, titled Men of Modern Mathematics. It was based on the items displayed on the exhibit's History Wall, and free copies were distributed to schools. The timeline covered the period from 1000 AD to approximately 1950 AD, and the poster featured biographical and historical items, along with numerous pictures showing progress in various areas of science, including architecture. The mathematical items in this chart were prepared by Professor Raymond Redheffer[7] of UCLA. Long after the chart was distributed, mathematics departments around the world have proudly displayed this chart on their walls.[8]

In 2012, IBM Corporation released a free iPad application, Minds of Modern Mathematics, based on the poster but updated to the present. The app was developed by IBM with the assistance of the Eames Office.[9][10]


  1. ^ Called the California Science Center since 1998.
  2. ^ The physical component of the exhibit was owned by the museum, it was financially supported by IBM, and the Eames Office retained the artistic property rights.
  3. ^ "mathematica: a world of numbers...". DesignBoom. Retrieved 14 May 2012. 
  4. ^ "Mathematica". nysci. New York Hall of Science. Retrieved 14 May 2012. 
  5. ^ "Mathematica". Museum of Science. The Museum of Science, Boston. Retrieved 14 May 2012. 
  6. ^ Moon Duchin mentions the Mathematica exhibit at the World's Fair on page 28 of "The Sexual Politics of Genius", University of Chicago [1].
  7. ^ Redheffer died in 2005, and the online memorial [2] at UCLA points out that even though he was an accomplished mathematician and lecturer, he was probably most famous for his work on the IBM chart.
  8. ^ See, for example, the link given in the footnote on Redheffer
  9. ^ "Free iPad App from IBM and Eames Office, Reinvents Iconic '60s-Era Infographic on History of Math". IBM News Room. IBM Corporation. Retrieved 14 May 2012. 
  10. ^ Thornhill, Ted (9 April 2012). "1,000 years of maths... via an app: IBM creates a (very long) iPad timeline history of geeks' favourite subject". Mail Online. Associated Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 14 May 2012. 

External links[edit]