Skip to main content


Wednesday 10 Mar 2021Playful Mathematics: A Toy Computer

Tom Ritchie - University of Exeter

Zoom 14:00-15:00

In 1934, a child’s construction toy – Meccano – was used to build the first differential analyser in the UK. Though initially intended as a proof-of-concept model, the original Meccano differential analyser proved so successful at resolving equations that these ‘toy’ machines were used before, during, and after the Second World War as research instruments and teaching devices.

My thesis used the original Meccano differential analyser to explore the complex relationships between Meccano, play, science, and engineering in the twentieth century, before historically reproducing my own working differential analyser from Meccano in 2018. I demonstrated this Meccano machine around the country, using it to teach the public how to resolve differential equations, and create new public histories of Meccano, mathematics, and computing. My machine now sits alongside part of the original at the Science Museum in London.

Visit website

Add to calendar

Add to calendar (.ics)