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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Magical equations » » Magic Square Effect, origins of the effects (7 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Profile of mcharisse
The Magician's Own Book (1858) spends three pages on magic squares, and instructions how to generally construct one of an odd number of cells. But no mention of moving toward a specific sum, which as far as I know can require the use of some numbers more than once. The author notes that "The invention of these contrivances has been traced back to the early ages of science, and talismanic properties were attributed to them. Modern philosophers have amused themselves in bringing them to perfection, and none has contributed so much as 'the model of practical wisdom,' Dr. Franklin"
Did Ben write about magic squares?
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Profile of Jimso
I have been absent from the Café for a while, so missed this forum until now. I posted a response to the same topic a couple of years ago under the "Everything Old is New Again" category. You can find that under the title "Magic Squares". As Dr. Solka (hcs) pointed out, I have a more extensive history in my book "Magic Square Methods and Tricks."

Various methods for constructing magic squares go back to ancient times, and in the early 20th century, a number of magicians and memory experts demonstrated the ability to achieve any chosen sum. However, they seem to have used more complicated methods. The specific method that relies upon adjusting just four cells of a memorized base square and also the more refined (and slightly more difficult) version that avoids a large gap by adjusting all cells was apparently invented in the late 1920's. I spent a lot of time and effort to find an earlier publication or reference to it, but could trace it only as far as Bob Nelson in 1929. I do not believe that he was the inventor because of mistakes in his description. If anyone can take that specific method back to any earlier source, I would very much appreciate knowing of it.

Of course, Harry Lorayne deserves full credit for popularizing that method. Many magicians learned it from his publications, and some have slight variations that they might consider to be improvements, but no on has performed it more impressively than Harry. His descriptions of the method should be the starting point for anyone interested in performing the 'any chosen sum' trick.

All of that being said, there are newer methods that are both easier and more versatile. I describe several in my two books, and Dr. Solka has a different one in his e-book 'Melencolia' that has a lot to offer. The opportunities for even more new methods are far from exhausted.

To the last question, yes, Benjamin Franklin wrote about magic squares in his autobiography, but did not explain his methods. How he did it remains a mystery that many have tried unsuccessfully to solve.
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Profile of minuscule
I arrive late, but thank you all for this information!

About Ben Franklin, the answer is yes :


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