The real story behind the Tesla Map to Multiplication chart

By Murray Bourne, 10 Jul 2016

I recently found this Map to Multiplication chart and found it fascinating. It's purportedly by the brilliant inventor Nikola Tesla.

I developed a 3D interactive applet which shows more clearly the patterns found in this multiplication chart.

The "Map to Multiplication"

The chart works as follows. Place the numbers 1 to 144 on a spiral, such that 1 is in the "1 o'clock" position, 2 is at "2 o'clock", and so on, as follows:


N. Tesla Map to Multiplication

(Click to see full-size image)

Around the edge of the spiral the author has indicated the patterns which form by succesively multiplying various numbers.

For example, the multiples of 2 form a hexagon shape as we go around the spiral:

Tesla Map to Multiplication 2

This image gives a clearer view of the hexagon resulting from successive multiples of 2:

Multiples of 2

Multiples of 3 give us diamonds:

Tesla Map to Multiplication- 3

Here is that diamond on a clock face:

Multiples of 3

Multiples of 5 (when we go all the way out to 144) give us a more complex star shape:

Tesla Map to Multiplication - 5

The prime 11 spirals out from the center:

Tesla Map to Multiplication - 11

But it wasn't by Tesla!

I was initially fooled by the chart. It certainly looks like something Tesla may have produced, and the paper it's printed on (or appears to be printed on) is suitably yellowed.

In reality, math teacher Joey Grether originally developed the chart for his children. He tried to promote it via 12xspiral but with little success.

So he cheekily decided to create a hoax, making it look like the chart was by Nikola Tesla. See: Hoaxing the 12x spiral and Tesla.

There's an article about Joey (by Maria Droujkova) here: Exploring the spiral multiplication table, where you can see the original Grether's Spiral diagram.

Also see this Reddit entry, which alerted me to the scam.

Conclusion

Don't always believe what you read - even though it looks plausible.

Now head on over and check out my 3D animation of the Grether Sprial.

(Images credit: Joey Grether)

See the 5 Comments below.

5 Comments on “The real story behind the Tesla Map to Multiplication chart”

  1. jean marc says:

    Dear M.Bourne,
    I just read your article and it blew my mind.
    I did not know about tesla's table of multiplication until know but I did made the same graphic (exactly) in june 2015 when I was making some research about prime number. I found many application for the graphic especially repartition of brilliant number. I need absolutely to contact the person that found these documents in phoenix to know if Tesla's left some comment about the graphic. Could you please help me.
    In 2015 september I send the result of my work to british and american mathematics university but did not get any reply.

    Best regards

  2. Murray says:

    @jean: Did you read the above post...?

  3. jean marc says:

    Ho thank you really much for the help. I so would like to contact with this joseph grether...lol

  4. Jonathan says:

    I do not know much of anything about Math (Taking MATH 099 in a local tech school) and I just discovered this website 5 minutes ago but I am fascinated! How could I program a a graph to replicate this I wonder?

  5. Murray says:

    @Jonathan: I used Three.js to code the 3D animation. Good luck with it!

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