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Mechanical Means of Trisecting Angle Found


Undaunted by the fact that mathematicians have slaved for centuries over the problem of trisecting an angle, Harvey "Scott" Sleeper '42, of Eliot House pondered about it in his spare time and has at last developed a mechanical means of graphically solving the problem.

Sleeper had been told by his teachers that the trisection of an angle was one of those things that simply could not be done geometrically. Stimulated rather than discouraged by this dogmatism, he worked by trial and error method and accomplished nothing.

In his Freshman year here Sleeper saw an attempted trisection by means of straight lines and knew that such a means was impossible. Searching for the error of the method, he discovered the inadequacy of the straight line and also hit upon a logical pattern resulting in a locus curve which would accurately trisect any angle.

Other curves have been discovered which will do what Sleeper's will, but the value of the latter lies in its simplicity of construction and equation. Upon this simple curve, Sleeper has been able to design an instrument which will automatically trisect any given angle. The apparatus is a simple two-piece device which, when placed correctly over the angle, shows where the lines of trisection are to be drawn.

Sleeper was aided and encouraged in his solution by employees of a utility company in New Jersey where he worked during the summer. Approval of the theory of Sleeper's discovery has been given by G. D. Birkhoff, Perkins Professor of Mathematics, W. H. Furry, associate professor of Physics, and Saunders MacLane, assistant professor of Mathematics.

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