Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Jerry Merryman RIP

Jerry Merryman (1932-2019).
Image source: NBC News.
Until today, I did not know who Jerry Merryman was - it turns out he was one of the three men who invented the hand-held calculator. Sadly he died on 27th February last - one can say that he truly had an effect on people's lives.

I am reminded of the Intermediate (now Junior) Certificate exams in 1975 - I was 15 years old and calculators were allowed in State Maths exams for the first time in Ireland. If I recall correctly, there were just two boys in the whole exam hall who had calculators, one was in front of me. It seemed grossly unfair that some boys had calculators, while most of us did not - we had to use the old-fashioned Log Tables instead. The Department of Education quickly abandoned calculators in exams after this and they were not re-introduced for some years. 

Jerry Merryman and his colleagues certainly made life easier for anyone needing to carry out basic and advanced mathematical functions. Some argued when they were introduced that students would lose the ability to add and subtract. This may be so, but it frees up valuable time to study other things. 

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