Georgia Tech Student Finds 102-Year-Old Slide Rule
They used to be a must-have for Yellow Jackets, but the current class of Tech students may not know much about slide rules. The analog tool is the predecessor to the electronic calculator and was used for decades to help engineers, scientists, and students compute math problems more quickly.
In simple terms, any number to be multiplied is represented by a specific length on a moveable ruler. Because these lengths are based on logarithms, the slide rule can be manipulated to express answers for multiplication and division. They can also be used for functions such as exponents, roots, and trigonometry – often useful for scientists and engineers.
Recently, as Chase Harrington was set to start his sophomore year at Tech, he uncovered something very special: a slide rule in a leather case reading “R.F. Bobbitt Jr. Georgia Tech 1918.”
It’s a discovery that uncovered something unknown about his family and their connections to the Institute.
The slide rule belonged to Harrington’s great-great grandfather. R.F. Bobbitt Jr. studied industrial management at Georgia Tech through the early 1920s and played tennis for the Yellow Jackets as well. He is a member of the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame and also played at Wimbledon.
Now, 102 years after the date inscribed on the slide rule, Harrington is studying industrial engineering Georgia Tech, following in his great-grandfather’s footsteps. He says he doesn’t actually know much about how to use the slide rule, but it’s easily one of the coolest discoveries for himself and his family.
“I didn’t know that this person existed, and I came to Tech unaware that anyone in my family ever went here. I thought that I was the very first,” Harrington said.
As Harrington learned more about Russell Bobbitt, owner of that slide ruler, he also learned more about his family’s connections to Tech. Harrington explains that after Bobbitt graduated, he bought a house on Techwood Drive where he’d have lunch with legendary Georgia Tech football coach Bobby Dodd every Sunday after church.
“It’s also mind-boggling to me that, after watching games in Bobby Dodd Stadium for a year, I had a family member who was so close to Dodd himself,” Harrington says.
Now, history seems so much closer and Harrington and his family are looking for other
keepsakes. Harrington says his family may have a copy of the Technique from Georgia Tech’s record-setting 222-0 victory over Cumberland College in 1918