athleen Samson, wife of John Samson (EE ’70), recalls the circuitous journey her husband’s prized slide rule (known colloquially in the United States as a “slipstick”) took before he donated it to the Illinois Institute of Technology Archives in December 2018. Samson won the 30-pound, 92-inch-long mechanical analog computing device in a Slide Rule Contest during Homecoming in 1969.
“It went from IIT to his mother’s basement in Oak Lawn and then to our apartment in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, across the river from MIT, where John was attending graduate school,” she says. “The slide rule went on to Waltham, Massachusetts, and then on to another basement, this time in Westwood, Mass. We next took it to our garage in Palm Harbor, Florida, where it resided for 34 years. Now, it’s come back home.”
No one as of yet can determine exactly how the slide rule originally came to campus. John Samson noted the red, white, and blue Williamsport War Models sticker on its front.
“I was told it was found in the basement of Siegel Hall and, reportedly, was used to train navigators and pilots during World War II,” he says. “The slide rule definitely was important enough to us to take it with us wherever we went. For me, it was a constant reminder of the night I overcame some formidable competition!”
Can you shed some light on the origins of John Samson’s slide rule? Send your clues to firstname.lastname@example.org.