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Ma Chuck, the Mathematician/Inventor

As mentioned in earlier posts, Ma Chuck was the first Chinese American male to register to vote in Santa Clara County. He also paid a price for being more 'Americanized' amongst his fellow immigrants.

Ma Chuck was born in San Francisco, CA and received an education at the Occidental school on 725 Clay Street. He also had an interest in science and mathematics. He also studied the 110 Chinese tables and Chinese Almanac.

Apparently, he tried bringing various Chinese methods of mathematical calculations to his work in California and El Capitan mines in New Mexico. A San Jose Mercury article in 1906, describes these so called 'innovative' methods of computation. The article also mentions a desire to potentially patent these ideas. A quick search of the US Patents office records do not show that he ever submitted an application.

The index to the work offers these suggestions of its character:

  1. The pass-key of heaven, invented by Fook Hee, a Chinese philosopher, who flourished 8500 years ago.

  2. A table of a hundred rules required in the process of multiplying instead of dividing

  3. A general pass-key for calculations in the grocery business with examples for practice.

  4. Systems and examples for dry goods calculations, wage scales, bank interest and compound interest.

  5. Examples for short cuts in fractions,

  6. Surveying and quick systems for finding squares, circles and diameters, and measuring trees, lumber, etc.

  7. Examples for measurement of solids, cones, irregular triangles. curved shapes, etc.

  8. A quarter scale, 25x25, for use in saw mills and lumber yards, and showing all the different rates without figuring

  9. A surveying chart, 50x50, for all kinds of land measurements

  10. The heavenly scale, 32x32, for the measurement of the planets, astronomical distances, and the travels of the sun. moon and earth, with the method of determining dates of eclipses and of all moon phases.

In a different article, there are praises for Ma Chuck inventing a new altitude measuring instrument.

“I saw Ma Chuck use this instrument at the recent aviation meet in San Francisco,” said Prof. Van der Naillen today, “and I think that it will prove a notable invention. We made practical tests of the instrument, and in nearly every instance the figures of the altitude recorded by it corresponded with those of the instruments used by the aviators. Ma Chuck impressed me as a thorough student of mathematics.
“The instrument, which computes altitudes by means of a scale, while not as accurate as the one now used by surveyors, is accurate enough for ordinary work, and will do the work much more cheaply and quicker than the instruments now used."

A search of the US Patent applications do not show that Ma Chuck ever tried to patent this new altimeter.


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