Amusements in Mathematics


The Haberdasher's Puzzle Solution

(This is Henry Ernest Dudeney's best known geometrical discovery)

The illustration will show how the triangular piece of cloth may be cut into four pieces that will fit together and form a perfect square. Bisect AB in D and BC in E; produce the line AE to F making EF equal to EB; bisect AF in G and describe the[Pg 179] arc AHF; produce EB to H, and EH is the length of the side of the required square; from E with distance EH, describe the arc HJ, and make JK equal to BE; now, from the points D and K drop perpendiculars on EJ at L and M. If you have done this accurately, you will now have the required directions for the cuts.

I exhibited this problem before the Royal Society, at Burlington House, on 17th May 1905, and also at the Royal Institution in the following month, in the more general form:—"A New Problem on Superposition: a demonstration that an equilateral triangle can be cut into four pieces that may be reassembled to form a square, with some examples of a general method for transforming all rectilinear triangles into squares by dissection." It was also issued as a challenge to the readers of the Daily Mail (see issues of 1st and 8th February 1905), but though many hundreds of attempts were sent in there was not a single solver. Credit, however, is due to Mr. C. W. M'Elroy, who alone sent me the correct solution when I first published the problem in the Weekly Dispatch in 1902.

I add an illustration showing the puzzle in a rather curious[Pg 180] practical form, as it was made in polished mahogany with brass hinges for use by certain audiences. It will be seen that the four pieces form a sort of chain, and that when they are closed up in one direction they form the triangle, and when closed in the other direction they form the square.





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