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Amherst College > News & Events > Amherst Magazine > Archives > Winter 2004 > Enigma Machine
Round device with brass arms.

The Enigma Machine

The device pictured here comes from the college’s Archives and Special Collections and is currently in President Anthony W. Marx’s office. It’s an intriguing object, but no one at the college knows what its original purpose might have been. To solve the mystery, we invite readers to send us their ideas. In the summer issue of Amherst we will print some of the most interesting submissions, among which, we hope, will be the correct answer.

The device is about 12 inches across and is seen here sitting on its flat wooden platform; apparently, it would be removed from the platform for use. The raised lid has a clip that restrains a spring-loaded brass oval, here shown released and resting on top of a ring of brass arms. Each brass arm has at its narrow end a sharp, upward-facing point. Those points form the innermost oval. The arms are connected to padded, movable wooden rods hanging below the device.

If you think you know what this is, or if you have a particularly inventive guess, e-mail College Editor Mark Cherrington or write to Mark Cherrington, Office of Public Affairs, Amherst College, P O Box 5000, Amherst, MA 01002-5000.

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Read the guesses we've received so far >>