The birth of SOMA ?
When WAS the birth of SOMA ???:
The official story tells us that:
"The Danish Author Piet Hein conceived the idea of the SOMA cube
in 1936, during a lecture of
Quantum physics by Werner Heisenberg
(Father of the un-certain principle).
When the lecture entered the subject: A room divided by cubes.
Piet Heins easily movable imagination grasped, in a lightening
flash this unusual geometric theory.
....Piet Hein convinced himself quickly, that seven shapes, ...
would let itself be combined to a larger cube of the dimensions
3 x 3 x 3.
....Piet Hein called his set of figures SOMA."
Ole Poul Pedersen, has been digging in the history, since he
bought an old version of the SOMA cube
(See Ole Poul's newsletter at
News letter 05,03,2003 The oldest SOMA ?
|The box reads the following|
Dansk Patent Anmeldt
Danish Patent Pending
Now searching the English patent files, on base of this package,
Ole Poul found that the patent is in fact issued on
November 29, 1934.
Two whole years earlier than the previously official release date.
And as we can read, this application was made as early as March 19, 1934.!
Now this of course raises the question:-
Did Werner Heisenberg give his lecture in 1934, or in 1936 ??
Or did Piet Hein invent the puzzle in 1933, and then apply for patent in 1934 ??
Can YOU shed some light on this matter, then please mail to me at
Feb. 2010 Addition:
It seems that the story might be almost right after all, just happening 3 years earlier.
The lecture held by Werner Heisenberg actually took place on december 11. 1933.
Mr. Heisenberg had received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1932, and responded by
a lecture titled "The development of quantum mechanics"
Here (It's copyrighted, but page one is shown here)
Assuming Piet Hein attended this lecture - which is very likely, given Piet Heins
interest in this field. Then it almost fit the Danish patent application dated
Dec. 2 1933
But still - the mystery continues, because. How can Piet Hein apply for a SOMA patent
9 days before hearing the referred lecture by Werner Heisenberg.??
We may never know.? /Thorleif
So - here follows the actual Danish patent paper from 1933.
And - here follows the actual English patent paper from 1934.
For those of you who are interested in the story.
Here are our thoughts, based on the Emails, that lead Ole Poul to find
this interesting information:
It all started Monday, November 18, 2002
The story starts, as Ole Poul Pedersen, contacted me (Thorleif), and described
how he made his first SOMA puzzle in 1964 from colored pieces of wood.
And then nothing happened untill:
Tuesday March 4. 2003
The conversation fell on an early Danish SOMA, presumed to be from
The Danish compagny "Skjøde" produced SOMA in dark rose-wood
with an exceptionally fine finish.
Skjøde however closed, (Was it in 1977 ?)
Whereafter Mr. Henning Bang obtained a permission from Piet Hein International
(Now: Piet Hein A/S, Skrillinge Strand 64, DK-5500 Middelfart, Denmark)
to produce SOMA cubes, primarily for export.
These cubes were made in the 1980's partly in light wood, and partly in
Ole Poul recently bought one of these puzzles by Mr. H. Bang himself, at
a cellergallery about midway on "Store Kongensgade" (Great kings road)
(Henning Bang, Store Kongensgade 67, 1264 København K, Tlf: +4533913402
But then Ole Poul explained, that he found this little old Danish SOMA on
a flee market (maybe it was the KB-Center) a few years ago.
He was not in doubt for even a moment, that he had to have it
(almost independant of the price, which as far as he recalled, was
100 kr.) (app. 15$)
The original price of this puzzle was Dk.Kr. 1,50.
And Ole Poul asked me, "maybe this could be the oldest SOMA, ever produced ??"
Quickly a set of foto's were made, and the puzzle is brought in its own
newsletter, BUT before anyone can reflect on it, the story continues,
as Ole Poul contacts some friends on NOBNET.
It was soon realized that the small box held a couble of numbers.
The UK and German patent numbers?? (UK 420349 and D.R.G.M. 1321938).
Indeed, a search through the British Patent Office revealed that
Piet Hein got his UK patent as early as Nov. 29, 1934
(application date in UK March 20, 1934).
It is now Saturday, March 8. 2002
Further search brought forth the actual Danish Patent, and we found that
Piet Hein's invention of the Soma Cube goes
back even further. As he filed for a patent in Denmark on Dec. 2, 1933,
but the patent was not actually issued in Denmark until September 28, 1936.
And indeed the inscription on the Soma box says, that an "apply for a
Danish patent" was issued.
This seem to indicate that this particular puzzle was produced
in the period from december 1933 to september 1936.
So a conclusion seem to be:
That when the production of SOMA started, the text of the Danish
Patent was read from the top, reading the publication date 28 Sep. 1936.
and it appear that this date has stuck, eventually being noted as the
date of birth for our beloved puzzle.
An logical question now remain:
As the patent application was given in december 1933.
Was SOMA then really created during a lecture by Heisenberg.?
When did Heisenberg actually give his lecture.?
Well, the story about the lecture IS good, in any case, and timewise
there is nothing excluding the possibility of it being true.
In 1926 Heisenberg became a teacher (lektor) at the Copenhagen
University, (By the way he then lived at the Niels Bohr institute).
This means, that Piet Hein may have experienced 'his' lecture both before and after
Heisenberg received the Nobel price in physics in 1932.
SO: - Let us continue to believe in the "good story"!!
Submitted by Ole Poul Pedersen <OP@adir.dk>
Edited by Thorleif Bundgaard <email@example.com>
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