Amos Mendenhall

On 13 Aug. 1867, Amos Mendenhall of Cerro Gordo, Randolph County, Indiana, patented an improved calculating machine (US patent Nr. 67786). The patent model of the device (up to 1880, the US Patent Office required inventors to submit a model with their patent application) is still preserved in the National Museum of American History, Washington, D. C. (see the image below).

The practical calculator of Amos Mendenhall (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.)
The practical calculator of Amos Mendenhall, perspective view (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.)
The practical calculator of Amos Mendenhall (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.)
The practical calculator of Amos Mendenhall, side view (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.)

The so called practical calculator of Amos Mendenhall was described by the inventor himself as a machine by which figures of any desired magnitude may be readily added, subtracted, multiplied, and divided. It is made by brass and is placed in a square metal box with overall measurements: 5.4 cm x 13 cm x 13.8 cm (although Mendenhall stated that the device is not limited to particular size or shape, and may be made of wood, card-board, or any other suitable material). The box has a boss in the center inside, in which the shaft of a cylinder with a graduated plate is to turn.

The practical calculator of Amos Mendenhall is an adder with a brass box which has a rotating disc inset in the top. There are 100 small holes around the rim of the disc. Outside the disc, on the top of the box, is a circular ring numbered from 01 to 99, with a gap at 00. Outside of this are three rings of holes, with 100 holes in each ring. These holes are to be used to hold markers indicating digits carried when the disc makes full rotations. On the side of the box is placed a rotating multiplication table (see the nearby image).

Amos Mendenhall proposed two methods for recording numbers over 99. The first was a set of 9 holes around the edge of the fixed disc, into which the operator could place a pin. Whenever the rotating disc moved a full turn, the operator moved the pin up to the next hundreds digit. Mendenhall suggested a mechanism which would count the number of times the upper plate rotated, and hence give the hundreds place. If the operator rotated especially energetically, and arrived at higher numbers, he suggested a system of pins to be used to represent thousands and higher places.

Biography of Amos Mendenhall

Mendenhall family were descendants of the early settler John Mendenhall (1659-1743) from Wiltshire, England, who came to America in the early 1680s and settled in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

Amos Cowgill Mendenhall was born on 16 November 1828, in Clinton County, Ohio, to Hiram Mendenhall (20 Feb. 1801-30 Jun. 1852) and Martha Ann Hale (23 Jun. 1801-5 Aug. 1880). He was named after his uncle Amos Cowgill (1794-1856), who married Hiram’s sister Edith (1799-1888). Amos had two sisters (Rowena (1822-1887), and Martha Ann (1826-1862), and seven brothers (Joseph Hale (1824-1908), Nathan (b. 1830); Jacob Hale (1833-1885); John and William, twins, (born and died in 1835); Samuel H. (1836-1923), and James Hiram (1839-1909).

Hiram L. Mendenhall was a minister, extensive landowner, miller and farmer by trade and a Hicksite Quaker and abolitionist in belief, one of the most outstanding figures to be found in the list of Quaker pioneers. In 1836 Mendenhall clan (Hiram together with his father Nathan and several of his brothers and their families) moved from Clinton County, Ohio, to Randolph County, Indiana, where he entered 400 acres of land (a wild forest), and opened a fine farm. Three years later he erected a saw mill, then two grist mills, and later on a woolen factory.

In 1837 Hiram Mendenhall laid out the town of Unionport, and in 1845 went on to pool his property with others to form the Unionport commune of the Society for Universal Inquiry and Reform. This social experiment soon collapsed (only one year later), leaving the Mendenhall’s financial situation hopeless. In 1850 during the California Gold Rush Hiram and Amos went to California to recoup the family fortunes in the gold fields. They didn’t find gold, but eventually erected a saw mill on the Sacramento river, and sold it for a goodly sum of money. In 1852 they embarked for home upon a steamer by way of Havana, Cuba, but Hiram died of cholera on 30 June on shipboard in the Gulf of Mexico.

Amos, his mother, and his siblings continued to live in the vicinity of Unionport (in Cerro Gordo), where Amos managed a farm, general store, manufactured goods, etc. He obviously was an imaginative man and very good mechanic, because besides the above-mentioned patent for the calculator, Amos is the holder of several more patents in USA and Canada for gold mining devices (US360713 and US540997), tricycle (US453151), and bicycle (US740156).

Amos Cowgill Mendenhall never married. He died on 10 April 1909, in Unionport, IN.

Alexander Davies

On 18 June 1867, Alexander Davies (1832-1900) from Cleveland, Ohio, received a US patent Nr. 65883 for computing machine—a slide bar adder, quite similar to the earlier adding device of George Fowler, patented in 1863. The patent model of the device (see the lower photo) survived to our time (up to 1880, the US Patent Office required inventors to submit a model with their patent application) and is kept now in the collection of National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Alexander Davies' Adding Machine (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.)
Alexander Davies’ Adding Machine (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D. C.)

Let’s examine the adding device of Davies, using the patent application (see the lower drawings).

The adding device of Davies was a metal, wood and paper instrument with overall measurements: 4 cm x 21 cm x 8.7 cm. The machine is marked on the left side: Computing Machine A.W. Davies.

The device has five continuous endless chains (metal bands), thus corresponding with the rows of figures on the board, which are counted from the top downwards, as units, tens, hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands, as indicated by the lettering between the opening in the right section of the cover or stop-plate (marked with J’ on the patent drawing). The chains move in slots across a wooden frame (marked with A), passing around the wheels B and B’. Flat pieces of brass cover the top of the frame on the right and the left, keeping the bands in their slots. The chains (bands) are made up of small flat squares of metal, with nine squares silver-colored and the tenth one brass. Each square has a hole at the center for inserting a peg.

Alexander Davies Adding Machine patent drawing
Alexander Davies’ Adding Machine patent drawing

Strips of paper attached between the bands are numbered from 1 to 9. Moving a band to the right turns the corresponding wheel clockwise. The edge of this wheel, which is covered around the edge with a paper marked with the digits from 0 to 9, is visible through a window in the right piece of brass. The number shown increases as the wheel turns. A lever on the left side disengages (resets) the fourth and fifth columns.

The carry mechanism, activated when a wheel passes 9, was implemented by a pawl (marked with G on the patent drawing), attached to a cam (marked with H), which engages in the notches of the wheel next in order, causing this wheel to move the distance of one link, adding one to the higher position.

Biography of Alexander Davies

Аlmost nothing is known about the inventor of this adding device— Alexander Davies.

Alexander W. Davies was born in 1832, and died on 14 March 1900 in Cleveland, Ohio. We know that he worked many year as a clerk, car agent, and accountant for several railroad companies in Cleveland between 1863 and 1900. He was a holder of two other US patents (US455197 and US456650) for inventions relating to recording the mileage traveled by railroad cars (car mileage register and report).

Alexander W. Davies married to Susan Harriet (Weeks) Davies (1832-1912), the daughter of David and Harriet Lucy (Webster) Weeks, the family came to Cleveland, OH, in the early 1850’s from Bennington, VT, where the Weeks family had resided since 1763.

Viktor Bunyakovsky

When you realize nothing is lacking, the whole world belongs to you.
Lao Tzu

Viktor Yakovych Bunyakovsky (1804-1888)
Viktor Yakovych Bunyakovsky (1804-1888)

Viktor Yakovych Bunyakovsky (Віктор Якович Буняковский) (1804-1888) is a famous Russian mathematician, member and later vice-president of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences. He made significant contributions in the areas of number theory and probability theory, and is credited with an early discovery of the Cauchy-Schwarz inequality. Besides being an eminent mathematician Bunyakovsky was a good mechanic also, and he invented several devices like planimeter, pantograph, etc.

Bunyakovsky became interested in calculating devices in 1828, then young teacher in mathematics at military cadet corps, when he wrote a review for the type of abacus, made by the mathematician general Svobodsky (Федор Михайлович Свободский). Bunyakovsky paid particular attention to the problem of tens carry, and had the intention of creating a device, resolving this problem. Thus in the middle 1860s Bunyakovsky invented a calculating device (so called самосчеты, i.e. automated abacus), which was demonstrated to the Academy on 14 February 1867. It seems only one (the original prototype) was made, preserved now in the collection of Polytechnic Museum in Moscow (see the image below).

The automated abacus of Bunyakovsky (Самосчеты Буняковского)
The automated abacus of Bunyakovsky (Самосчеты Буняковского)

The calculating device of Bunyakovsky has dimensions 24.5 х 21 х 0.7 сm, and consists of (see the drawing below):
1 — A metal circle, freely rotating around its axis (with three fixed teeth, marked with 8).
2 — Results digits in small circles (0-9, repeated three times, totally 30).
3 — Rods with spherical handles (mounted together with the digits (2)), and used for rotating of the disk (1).
4 — Fixed arcuate plank with two numerical rows. Outer row is used during the addition, inner row—during the subtraction.
5 — Plank with three result windows—(A1, A2, A3), control window (A) and buttons of digital disks (Б, Б1).
6 — Ratchet wheels.
7 — Fixing mechanism (a spring).

A drawing of automated abacus of Bunyakovsky (Самосчеты Буняковского)
A drawing of automated abacus of Bunyakovsky (Самосчеты Буняковского)

During the addition the metal circle is rotated counter-clockwise, while during the subtraction rotation is clockwise. The result can be seen in the windows (A1, A2, A3). Calculations on the device are reduced to the sequential addition of units separately, then tens, hundreds, and so on of all terms, the results obtained are recorded on the small abacus in the lower left corner of device or a tablet. During subtraction, the counter is set to the value to be reduced, and the subtraction of units, tens, etc. is performed sequentially.

A drawing of tens carry mechanism of automated abacus of Bunyakovsky
A drawing of tens carry mechanism of automated abacus of Bunyakovsky

The tens carry mechanism of device consisted of (see the nearby drawing):
6 — Digital disks for tens (right) and hundreds (left).
8 — Three teeth, fixed on the metal circle, rotating around its axis, for carrying to tens disk.
9 — Column openings (contacting with teeth for tens carry).
10 — A tooth, fixed on the disk for tens, for carrying to hundreds disk.

The capacity of device is quite limited—the input numbers are limited to 14, while the result is limited to 999. The device is also lacking a mechanism to avoid the mechanical inertia of the moving parts.

Bunyakovsky used his abacus for some scientific calculations, but it seems nobody else had used the device. It exists although an improved version of the device from 1876 (two devices survived), which have been used for some time.

Elmore Taylor

In May 1874, Elmore W. Taylor of Franklin, Johnson county, Indiana, applied for a patent for adding machines (US patent Nr. 155772), assigning one-half to his brother Richard T. Taylor. In 1870s Elmore worked as an assistant-cashier at First National Bank of Franklin and obviously devised this adding machine to facilitate his daily work and with the support of his elder brother Dick, who was general manager and cashier of the bank.

The patent for a circular adding machine was granted on 6 October 1874, and the patent model of the device (up to 1880, the US Patent Office required inventors to submit a model with their patent application) is still preserved in the National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C. (see the image below). This is the only survived device and it obviously never became popular.

Elmore Taylor's adding machine (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.)
Elmore Taylor’s adding machine (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.)

The adding machine of Elmore Taylor is a circular adder (similar to earlier adding devices of William Haines and Aaron Hatfield). It is made by wood, metal and paper, and it is quite big, with overall measurements: 14.5 cm x 30.5 cm x 30.5 cm (although in the patent is mentioned that it can be made of wood, or of wood and metal, or entirely of metal, and can be made of any convenient size). The device is intended to be used for adding columns of figures, two places at a time.

The wooden base of device supports three concentric wooden rings and a central mechanism. The outer fixed ring has a serrated outer edge. The 100 serrations are numbered from 1 to 99 (the 0 serration isn’t numbered) on a paper ring fixed to the surface of the ring. Inside this ring is a movable ring, grooved or notched with 100 upward-facing serrations around its edge. These are numbered on the adjacent piece of paper from 00 to 99. Inside this ring is a third fixed ring, serrated on the inside, and also carrying a numbered slip of paper numbered from 00 to 99.

Two wooden arms are mounted on a rotating wooden platform at the center of the instrument. The larger arm is designed to link to the two outer rings and the smaller one to the middle ring only. The machine has a carry (by means of a pivoted arm and a pawl) from the tens to the hundreds place.

Elmore Taylor's adding machine (the patent drawing)
Elmore Taylor’s adding machine (the patent drawing)

Biography of Elmore Taylor

Elmore (or Elmer) W. Taylor was born in 1847 in the town of Franklin, the county seat of Johnson County in Indiana, United States, located about 30 km south of Indianapolis. He was the third son of John W. Taylor (born 1810) and Nancy Taylor (b. 1811), both from New York. Elmore had three sisters (Aletha A., b. 1840; Mary E., b. 1844, and Hannah J., b. 1849) and two brothers—Pierson T. (1834-1896), and Richard (Dick) T. (born 1843).

Elmore Taylor had an inventive mind and received his first patent only 19 years old in 1866. In 1870 his brother Dick, who was in the clothing business, was appointed as cashier and general manager of First National Bank of Franklin (the second bank in Indiana, opened in 1863), and soon he assured the position of assistant-cashier to his younger brother Elmore. It seems Elmore lived quietly in his hometown until February 1877, and he even married a local girl, the young Margaret (Maggie) A. Toner (1857-1885), on 5 October 1876.

In the beginning of February 1877 Dick Taylor suddenly disappeared from the town, and a couple of days later Elmore received a letter from his brother. It appeared that Dick Taylor had fled, and that the affairs of the bank were in a worse condition than anyone would imagine, and that he (Richard) had been forcing balances and deceiving the bank examiners for a long time, and had been paying dividends to stockholders without earning them. On receipt of this startling epistle Elmore Taylor at once informed James Forsyth, the president of the bank, of the turn affairs had taken, and the bank was closed. The investigation found that the amount of bank loses by Dick Taylor’s rascality was over 100000 USD (a huge sum for the time and over 60% of entire resources of the bank), mainly filched and consumed in operations in Chicago margins. It was found also that Dick’s family (he had a wife and one child), as well as his brother Elmore were hoodwinked in regard to his criminal operations.

After the fatal events of 1877, Elmore left his hometown, and removed for several years to Detroit, where he used to work as a photographer, then returned to Indianapolis. Elmore Taylor was a holder of several US and Canada patents, as besides the adding machine, he patented also evaporator (patent 56464 from 1866), advertising devices (1880 and 1883), and roller skate (pat. US255694 from 1882).

Elmore Taylor died only 38 years old at Indianapolis on 4 March 1885, of catarrhal affection, and was buried in Rest Haven Cemetery, Edinburgh, Johnson County, Indiana.

Alfred Smee

If you cannot find peace within yourself, you will never find it anywhere else.
Marvin Gaye

Alfred Smee (1818-1877)
Alfred Smee (1818-1877)

Alfred Smee (1818-1877), a chemist, surgeon and an enthusiastic amateur gardener and horticulturalist, is another creator of early logical machines, who really deserves our attention, just like the earlier thinkers Ramon Llull, Athanasius Kircher, Gottfried Leibniz, and Semyon Korsakov.

Alfred Smee, a senior surgeon to the Royal General Dispensary, the Bank of England, and to the Central London Opthalmic Hospital, and also a Fellow of the Royal Society, is primarily known for publishing a series of books on a field, which he called electro-biology, the relation of electricity to the vital functions of the human body. Smee determined to study how the functions of the brain are related to the electrical stimulation of the nervous system. He argued that instinct and reason could be deduced from electrobiology, which was rather extraordinary idea for that time.

In 1851, Smee published in London his most important book, Process of Thought Adapted to Words and Language, which, he stated, is a deduction from the general system of Electro-biology. He planned to produce an artificial system of reasoning based upon natural principles, one that processes ideas in the same way that the human nervous system processes them.

Little was known about the brain in the middle of 19th century, and there were no good tools for its study. That’s why Smee had to rely on speculation rather than experimentation to gain his understanding of human thinking. The outcome of these speculations was his electro-biological machine.

According to Smee’s theory, each idea is determined by the presence or absence of certain properties (redness, roundness, etc.), and each property is represented in the brain by the electrical stimulation of a nerve fiber. Thus, for Smee, an idea consists of a collection of electrically stimulated nerve fibers. Using the technology of the 19th century, the machines Smee conceived for presenting his ideas were entirely mechanical.

Smee’s Relational Machine (so called because it represented the relationship between the various properties, comprising an idea), was intended to represent one thought, idea, or mental image at a time. One version of it was constructed from a large piece of sheet metal, repeatedly divided into halves by metal hinges. Half of the metal would represent the presence of a property, the other—the absence. The metal flaps, representing absent properties, would be folded out of sight until all that remained was a piece of metal representing the collection of properties that formed the idea.

Smee designed a second machine to compare ideas. It was called Differential Machine and consisted of two Relational Machines, linked together by an interface, able to compare the properties represented by each Relational Machine and then to judge whether the ideas agree, probably agree, possibly agree, or disagree. Representation of ideas and judgments about them, the tasks his machines were designed to do, comprised the entire rational thinking faculty for Smee.

Smee was confident his machines could model human thought. He was concerned, however, about the feasibility of constructing his machines, because of the elaborate mechanical engineering involved and the problem of scale. He wrote in Process of Thought that:
…when the vast extent of a machine sufficiently large to include all words and sequences is considered, we at once observe the absolute impossibility of forming one for practical purposes, in as much as it would cover an area exceeding probably all London, and the very attempt to move its respective parts upon each other, would inevitably cause its own destruction.

It is unknown whether Smee has built workable models of his machines. Most probably only small scale models were made (even this is doubtful), as Smee realized that his hope for a machine that could represent the natural processes of thought and judgment was beyond his reach. Nevertheless, Smee’s books were quite popular in the middle of 19th century and spread his conviction of the possibility of mechanized thought.

Semyon Korsakov

Just as the telescope and the microscope provided the additional power to our eyes, the intellectual machines would limitlessly strengthen the power of our mind…
Semyon Korsakov, 1832

Semyon Nikolaevich Korsakov (1787-1853)
Semyon Nikolaevich Korsakov (1787-1853)

In 1817 Semyon Nikolaevich Korsakov, an officer in Russian Justice Ministry and a veteran from Napoleonic Wars, accepted a position in the statistics department of the Police Ministry in St. Peterburg. Inspired from his daily work, soon Korsakov was intrigued with the possibility of using machinery to enhance natural intelligence and began construction of several devices which he called machines for the comparison of ideas. The purpose of these logical devices was primarily to facilitate the search for information (for homeopathic medicines and treatment), stored in the form of punched cards or similar media (e.g. wooden boards with holes).

Just like the earlier thinkers Ramon Llull, Athanasius Kircher and Gottfried Leibniz, Korsakov could see the perspective of the suggested mechanization of thinking, and just like Charles Babbage, he intended to use punched cards (or similar media, for example, wooden boards with perforations) as a memory holder (It is known that Korsakov was in Paris with Russian Army in 1814, so probably he had seen there the programmable loom with punched cards of Jacquard). His machines for comparing ideas, described and illustrated in the above-mentioned pamphlet, can be considered as the very first attempt to design a mechanical device capable to perform such intellectual operations as data analysis, comparison, and selection.

Korsakov's brochure from September 1832
Korsakov’s brochure from September 1832

Korsakov announced his new devices in September 1832, in a (22 pages text and 2 pages drawings) brochure in French (published in St. Petersburg, see the nearby image), entitled Aperçu d’un procédé nouveau d’investigation au moyen de machines à comparer les idées (Description of a new way for research, using machines for comparing ideas). Interestingly, Korsakov offered the machines for public use, rather than seeking patents.

Later the same year, Korsakov presented his ideas to the Imperial Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, but their experts rejected his application, failing to see the potential of mechanizing searches through large stores of information. The commission, lead by the famous mathematician Mikhail Ostrogradskyi, even made an ironical note: “Mr. Korsakov wasted too much intelligence, in order to teach other people to live without intelligence.” Interestingly, later the jester Ostrogradskyi will support some other Russian inventors of calculating devices like Kummer, Staffel, Slonimski, and Chebyshev.

Sadly, Korsakov’s seminal work in this area has remained obscure and largely unstudied until fairly recently.

Aiming to create an auxiliary amplifier for natural intelligence, in 1820s Korsakov invented and in his 1832 brochure described five logical devices:
1. Linear homeoscope with unmovable parts.
2. Linear homeoscope with movable parts.
3. Flat homeoscope.
4. Ideoscope.
5. Simple comparator.
Let’s examine Korsakov’s machines for comparing ideas:

Linear Homeoscope with unmovable parts

On the nearby image is presented the Linear Homeoscope with unmovable parts of Korsakov (left-perspective view, right-side view). On the lower image is presented the Homeoscope table. How works the Linear Homeoscope?

In the Homeoscope table can be set a number of “ideas”, as each column can represent one “idea” (Korsakov used the term idée compliquée – complicated idea) as a group of holes (each idée compliquée contains a number of (up to several hundreds) les details, i.e. features or attributes).

The Homeoscope is a wooden lath, which height is equal to the height of the table, and it works as a “selector” of ideas. Using pins, which can be pressed down to stick out of the lower surface, we can set a pattern (search criteria) for the selector. Then, when we are moving the Homeoscope across the table we are actually searching for matching data (each pin of the Homeoscope corresponds to one row of the table), as the Homeoscope will fall down and stop its movement when (and if) it finds a column (idea), which has holes in the same rows, where the pins are pressed down.

In his brochure Korsakov gave the following example for practical use of this device:
If the ideas, signed as columns A, B, C, D, etc, in the table, are indicating the areas of using of different medicines, and rows are indicating different symptoms of diseases, which will be cured by these medicines, then we can set in the Homeoscope all the symptoms of a particular disease, and to move it across the table until will be stopped (a match will be found). Thus we can see which exactly medicine is suitable to be used for these particular symptoms.

Linear Homeoscope with movable parts

Linear Homeoscope with movable parts
Linear Homeoscope with movable parts

The Linear Homeoscope with movable parts of Korsakov (see the nearby drawing) is an improved version of the Linear Homeoscope with unmovable parts. The tables are the same, but this Homeoscope has moveable parts, which made possible more complicated search criteria and algorithms to be used, and in addition to this, the Linear Homeoscope with movable parts instantly calculates and separates from the given idea all those details that correspond (or do not correspond) to similar details of other ideas in the table, as they come into contact.

Flat Homeoscope

Flat Homeoscope of Korsakov
Flat Homeoscope of Korsakov

The Flat Homeoscope of Korsakov (see the nearby image) used two tables and compared the template (search criteria) from the upper table to the dataset (ideas) of the lower table.

The upper table (marked with A) has holes in all the cells, which can contain pins. The lower table is the same size, but has holes only in some cells, according to the idea (search criteria).

In the upper table can be set all the symptoms of a particular disease, while in the lower table can be set all cases, which will benefit of using a particular medicine. Thus we can prepare a table for all medicines, and to use them one after another, until we find a match—a proper medicine for the particular disease.


Korsakov's Ideoscope
Korsakov’s Ideoscope

The Ideoscope of Korsakov (see the nearby image) is the most clever device of all five of them, which is capable, using a special table and a pre-arranged object:
1. To find all matches between two compared ideas.
2. To find all items, that are presented in the source-idea, but are missing in the target idea.
3. To find all items, that are missing in the source-idea, but are presented in the target idea.
4. To find all items, that are missing in both ideas, but are presented in other ideas in the same table.

The Ideoscope is capable also to find during the comparison the relative importance of every detail. The number of compared ideas can reach several hundred, and every idea can contain more then a hundred details. Besides that, the Ideoscope (just like Homeoscopes, described above), can be upgraded in order to work with cylindrical tables.

Simple Comparator

Simple Comparator of Korsakov
Simple Comparator of Korsakov

The Simple Comparator of Korsakov (see the nearby drawing) consists of two wooden frames, and can produce the same four results, as the Ideoscope, but it is capable to work with two ideas, comparing them in between. It can contain only several tens of details, but is excels the Ideoscope at that, because it doesn’t need a table or punched card to be prepared. It can be used for any kind of comparison between scientific topics or objects.

Biography of Semyon Korsakov

Semyon Nikolaevich Korsakov (1787-1853)
Semyon Nikolaevich Korsakov (1787-1853)

Semyon Nikolaevich Korsakov (Russian: Семён Николаевич Корсаков) was born on 14 January 1787, in Kherson, a town in modern south Ukraine (but then part of the Russian empire) in the noble family of the promising Russian military engineer Nikolai Ivanovich Korsakov (1749—1788), who was then main engineer of the town, and his wife Anna Semyonovna Korsakova (nee Mordvinova) (1765—1849).

The founder of Russian Korsakovs family was Ventseslav Zigmund Korsak (1370-1435), a Lithuanian noble from Check (or Volga-Bulgarian, according other sources) origin, who in 1390 settled in Moscow. During the next centuries Korsakovs, and related families like Rimsky-Korsakov (the famous Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov is from that family), Dondukov-Korsakov, Miloslavski (Ventseslav had a brother Miloslav), etc., established as some of the most reputable Russian families.

In his youth, Nikolai Korsakov lived quite a long time in England, graduating at the University of Oxford with honors, and then working several years in Glasgow, Scotland. After his returning in Russia in the end of 1770s, he became an aide-de-camp and favorite of the Russian Prince Grigory Potemkin, and married in 1786 to Anna Mordvinova, a godchild of the Russian Empress Catherine II.

Nikolai Semyonovich Mordvinov (1754-1845)
Nikolai Semyonovich Mordvinov (1754-1845)

In 1780s Engineer-colonel Nikolai Korsakov was in charge of construction projects in St. Petersburg, Sevastopol, Simferopol and Kherson, and established himself as one of the most promising Russian military engineers. After the beginning of Russo-Turkish War of 1788-92 Korsakov put the uniform and entered the order of general Alexander Suvorov. For only several months Engineer-colonel Nikolai Korsakov distinguished himself and was decorated with a military cross, but unfortunately, he died in his prime in accident during the famous Battle for Ochakov оn 24 August 1788 (during a routine check of the military positions he slipped and fell down in a ditch and was pierced through by his own sword). Thus the only child of the family Semyon, who was only one during the incident, lost his father and grew up under attention of his mother Anna and her brother, admiral Nikolai Semyonovich Mordvinov (1754-1845), a Russian naval commander and statesman (see the nearby image).

After receiving a very good education, in 1805 Semyon Korsakov accepted a position in Russian Foreign Ministry. From 1812 until 1814, Semyon Korsakov took part in the Napoleonic Wars with the Russian Army, was wounded during the famous Battle of Berezina and received several orders (later in his life he was granted with prestigious Order of St. Anna and Order of St. Vladimir), and travelled with the army to Germany and France. Later he served as an official in the statistics department of the Russian Police Ministry in St. Petersburg, then was a highly ranked officer in Internal Ministry up to 1845, when he retired as acting state advisor (general).

Mikhail Korsakov (1826–1871)
Mikhail Korsakov (1826–1871)

Semyon Korsakov was married two times. From the first marriage he had a son. From the second marriage to his cousin (a daughter of his patron admiral Nikolai Mordvinov) Sofia Nikolaevna Mordvinova (1797—1877) he had 11 children, two of them died young, so left 3 daughters and 6 sons, one of whom, Mikhail Semyonovich (1826–1871) (see the nearby photo), became famous in his own right as governor-general of Eastern Siberia and was the namesake of the town of Korsakov in Sakhalin Oblast and several Russian geological features.

Though Korsakov was not formally trained as a doctor, he was very interested in medicine and he treated tens of thousand patients, at first using conventional medicine, but in 1829 switching to homeopathy. Later he was noted in homeopathic circles as the originator of a new method of dilution.

Korsakov was a very competent mathematician, performed experiments with electricity, galvanoplastic, photography, etc. He was one of the first photographers in Russia.

The estate of Korsakov's in Tarusovo
The estate of Korsakov’s in Tarusovo

Semyon Korsakov is known also for establishing in 1824 the first public information points (the Reference Place) in Russia, in St. Petersburg and Moscow.

In 1827 Semyon Korsakov bought an estate in the village of Tarusovo (on Dubna river), then part of the Moscow Province and immediately relocated to live there with his family. He liked his new property very much, and testified this in writing:
The key of very good water is in the courtyard of Tarusovo; there is a very beautiful stone church across Dubna… The village is close. The peasants are well-looking, and are seeming modest, but not drunkards. They live in the villages of Tarusovo and Garyah. The peasant buildings of the neighbors are good, and have enough livestock and horses and live well. I seem to be loved because I made various significant improvements to them.

The grave of Semyon Korsakov in Tarusovo
The grave of Semyon Korsakov in Tarusovo

Korsakovs had a huge library with over 7000 books in the estate. They were a very hospitable family, and used to hold receptions, gathering many celebrities, between them: Ivan Andreyevich Krylov (Russia’s best-known fabulists), Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, Alexander Ivanovich Turgenev (a Russian statesman and historian), and others. Later Korsakov’s daughter, Natalia (1827—1915), opened in Tarusovo a school for peasant children, and she taught them literacy. In acknowledgment of Korsakov’s service, the peasants plundered and set on fire their estate after the 1917 Russian revolution.

Semyon Korsakov died on 1 December 1853, in his estate in the village of Tarusovo, and was buried there (see the nearby photo of his tombstone).

George Farmer

The tallying instrument of George Farmer (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.)
The tallying instrument of George Farmer (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.)

On 8 October 1867, George Farmer of Flint, Michigan, patented a tallying instrument (US patent 69647). The patent model of the device (up to 1880, the US Patent Office required inventors to submit a model with their patent application) is still preserved in the National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C. (see the image below).

The tallying instrument of George Farmer is a circular brass adding device with overall measurements: 1.2 cm x 10.7 cm x 10.7 cm. The case, the dial-plate and wheels are made of metallic sheet metal.

According to the patent US69647 (see the patent drawing below), the invention relates to a new and improved method of registering or tallying the quantity of lumber measured, or keeping account of sums of money paid out or received, and which is adapted to other purposes of a similar nature…

The instrument of George Farmer has three concentric, linked discs that revolve on a central pivot. The bottom disc is numbered from 1 to 99 clockwise around its toothed edge, to represent hundreds and thousands. Above it is a smaller disc, also with teeth around the edge, numbered from 00 to 99 clockwise to represent units and tens. A window in the third, top, largest disc shows the result on the dials below. The largest disc (a dial-plate) is numbered from 1 to 100 around the edge.

Atop the dial-plate is a rotating lever (arm), which traverses the disk, and by which the instrument is operated. Moving the arm counterclockwise advances the inner disc proportionally, allowing the operator to enter numbers up to 99.

The tallying instrument of George Farmer (the patent drawing)
The tallying instrument of George Farmer (the patent drawing)

Another lever extends from the side of the disc and bends over the top, performing the carry, if needed. If the arm rotates around a full 100 units, it pushes this lever, causing a carry. The lever also may be used to zero the hundreds and thousands digits.

Biography of George Farmer

George Farmer was born in 1830 in England and immigrated into the US in 1850s. He initially settled in Illinois (Elmira and Osceola), working as a miller. In Osceola, IL, in 1860 he received a patent for a reaper or harvester (patent Nr. US29685).

In 1860s, Farmer moved to Michigan (Flint and Saginaw), still working as a miller. In 1870s he and his eldest son, Albion, established a shingle-making business in Saginaw, MI, under the name of George Farmer & Son.

George Farmer married to Mary Jane Farmer (1834–1889) from New York, and they had three sons—F. Albion (1854–1931), Eugene, Frederick, and a daughter—Georgia.

George Farmer died (of cerebral hemorrhage) on 24 June 1880, in Saginaw, Michigan.

Samuel Comfort

Samuel Comfort (1837-1923)
Samuel Comfort (1837-1923)

Samuel Comfort (1837-1923) of Morrisville, Pennsylvania, attained considerable distinction as an inventor of improvements in mowing and reaping machines, sewing machines, etc., for which he received numerous patents (by age 24 Comfort held over 12 patents in the USA and Great Britain, let’s mention only patent US14445 from 1856 for a mower, US16507 from 1856 and US18437 from 1857 for a harvester rake, and US16968 from 1857 for a harvester cutter). Interestingly, one of his patents from 1866, when he just founded a company for manufacturing of agricultural machinery in Newtown, is for a counting-machine (see US patent 52681 from 20 Feb 1866). Described in the patent device seems to be well designed and workable, but nothing is known about it, so obviously it remained only on paper and had not been implemented in practice.

Let’s examine the operation of the Comfort’s counting-machine using the description in the patent application (see the lower patent drawing):

When the crank C is in the position shown in Figs. 2, 3, and 4 the bar L engages in one of the notches, k or k’, in each of the numbering-wheels K, holding them all firmly to prevent their being turned upon their centers so as to alter the arrangement of the figures exhibited at the aperture in the face-plate. At the same time the bar N, which is secured to the frame H, is detached from the numbering-wheels and is free to move with the said frame without communicating any motion to the said wheels.

The patent drawing of Samuel Comfort's counting-machine
The patent drawing of Samuel Comfort’s counting-machine

The spiral spring G, contracting, bears the end of the slot in the bar E against the crank-pin i. The crank C and the bar E being on centers, the frames F and H are at the extreme limit of their movement toward the projection b. The end of the crank-pin engages in the groove l in the frame H, which latter has completed one-half of its oscillatory movement.
0n turning the shaft D in the direction of the arrow, Fig.4, the crank-pin i in the groove l causes the frame H to turn upon the rod I until the lip h’ comes in contact with the ways c’. At this moment the crank-pin leaves the groove l and the end of it passes over the surface of the flange m; but when the shaft D is put in motion, as described, the action of the spring G moves the frame F, which carries the bar L and the frame H, with the bar N, toward the projection b’.
By this movement the bar L is withdrawn from the notch in the wheel which indicates numbers of the denomination of units. As the bar L is withdrawn from this wheel the projection n of the bar N enters one of the notches, k or k’, in the same.
If it should enter one of the smaller notches, k, the bottom of the notch o will bear against the face of the said wheel and stop the farther movement in that direction; but if it should happen to enter one of the larger notches, k’, the larger portion of the bar N will pass through the said notch, and the projection n will engage the tens-wheel, and if the notch in the tens-wheel should be a large one also, it will pass on through this and enter the hundreds-wheel, and so on for the whole series; but the wheels being in the positions shown in the drawings, the bar N will only engage in the units-wheel.
When the frames F and H have been stopped by the bottom of the notch o bearing against one of the wheels K the crank will continue to revolve, the crank-pin running loosely in the slot in the bar E, the end of it passing freely over the face of the flange m until it re-enters the groove l, carries the frame H upon its axis in the opposite direction, turning with it the wheel or wheels K, which are engaged with the bar N.
When the lip h comes in contact with the ways c’ the end of the crank-pin i again leaves the groove l and traverses over the surface of the flange m’. At some period of this portion of its movement the crank-pin again comes in contact with the end of the slot in the bar E, moves the frames F and H, withdraws the bar N, and again registers the numbering-wheels K upon the bar L.
The crank-pin then re-enters the groove l and completes the movement to the point whence it started. The notches in the numbering-wheels are so arranged in respect to the digital numbers marked upon the same that when the figure 9 (nine) is exhibited by any wheel at the aperture in the face-plate the larger notch k’ of that wheel is so situated that the bar N may pass through it and engage the wheel of the next higher denomination. Thus the numbers indicated may pass from units to tens, from tens to hundreds, etc.

Biography of Samuel Comfort

Samuel Comfort as U.S. consul at Calcutta, India, end of 1890s
Samuel Comfort as U.S. consul in India, around 1900

Samuel Comfort Jr., son of George and Susan (nee Lower) Comfort, grandson of Samuel and Rebecca (Moon) Comfort, great-grandson of John and Mary (Woolman) Comfort, was born on 5 May 1837 at the Comfort homestead—a farmhouse on a 150-acre property located 1 km west of Morrisville, Bucks county, Pennsylvania (subsequently “Lincoln Inn”, now “Good Friends Inc.”). The Comfort and Lower families were both prominent members of the religious movement Society of Friends (Quakers) and two of the oldest families of Bucks county, as Samuel was great-great son of the famous American religious leader John Woolman (1720-1772).

George Comfort (1808-1887) was born at the family homestead in Bucks county, and spent some time working as a teacher in Philadelphia, but around 1830 returned to Bucks county and took possession and management of his family homestead. He was one of the directors of the Fallsington Library, and for 35 years was school director of Falls township. George Comfort married Susan Lower (1812-1888), a daughter of Abraham Lower (1776-1841) and Susanna Stackhouse (1779-1856) of Philadelphia, and they were the parents of seven children: Annie (b. 1831), Caroline (1833-1834), Rebecca (b. 1835), Samuel (1837-1923), Susan Elizabeth (1843-1866), Georgianna (1853-1916), and William G. (1854-1857).

Samuel Comfort was educated initially under private instructors and then in early 1850s at the nearby Trenton Academy, along with many children of the local elite. At an early age he developed special talents in mathematics, sciences and mechanics. At the end of 1850s the young Samuel devised numerous agricultural improvements in mowing and reaping machines, sewing machines, etc., for which he received numerous patents (by age 24 Comfort held over 12 patents in the USA, and Great Britain for agricultural machines).

Despite his Quaker upbringing, in 1861-1865 Samuel Comfort took active part in the Civil War and present numerous battles or skirmishes of more or less importance.

On 8 October 1861 he joined the Union Army as part of the “Anderson Troop,” the bodyguard of General Buell, in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Northern Alabama. In September 1862 he was honorably discharged form the service on account of physical disability (typhoid fever) contracted in the service. In June, 1863, he recruited at his own expense an independent company of cavalry in Bucks and Montgomery counties and the city of Philadelphia which was mustered into the service for a term of six months under the name of “Captain Samuel Comfort, Jr.’s Independent Company of Cavalry, the Bucks County Troop.”

Captain Comfort was wounded in the right arm while in command of the skirmish line in the battle of New Market, in the Shenandoah valley, in 1864, and was promoted to be major of the Twentieth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry in March 1865. He was mustered out and honorably discharged from the service as major of the first Provisional Pennsylvania Cavalry, 25 July 1865.

Samuel Comfort's tombstone in Newtown, Pa (source:
Samuel Comfort’s tombstone in Newtown, Pa (source:

After the war, Comfort first established himself as a manufacturer of agricultural machinery in Newtown, Pennsylvania, founding the firm of Cornell & Comfort. In 1871, he joined the Keystone Petroleum Refinery of his brothers-in-law Thomas Chambers and Henry Pickering in Titusville, Pa, which later became part of Standard Oil Trust. From 1879 to 1898 Comfort represented Standard Oil both domestically and internationally, including six years managing the business in western India. Concurrently with his work in the oil industry, Comfort was U.S. vice-consul (1894-1896) and consul (1896-1898) at Bombay. From 1900 to 1903, Comfort served as U.S. vice- and deputy-consul general at Calcutta. By 1904 he accumulated a comfortable fortune and retired from active business, moving to London, where his daughter lived.

On 16 October 1866, Samuel Comfort married to Elizabeth Jenks Barnsley (4 Jul. 1844—1 Mar. 1932), daughter of John (1811-1880) and Mary (1814-1895) Barnsley (Hough), of Newtown, Bucks county, a second cousin of the illustrious US general and president Ulysses Grant (Mary’s grandfather John Simpson Hough was also grandfather of the general). One child was born of this marriage, Emma Walraven Comfort-Crookshank (1869-1954).

Samuel Comfort was a close friend of John D. Rockefeller and member of the Loyal Legion, Grand Army of the Republic Union League Club, and one of the oldest members of Bristol Lodge of Freemasons.

While visiting his relatives in Newtown in August, 1923, Samuel Comfort became ill and died due to senility on 11 October 1923 (he was 86 years old).

Friedrich Arzberger

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
Albert Einstein

Friedrich Arzberger (1833-1905)
Friedrich Arzberger (1833-1905)

In middle 1860s the young Austrian mining engineer and professor Friedrich (Fritz) Arzberger constructed one of the early column adding machines with keys (after the pioneering machines of of James White, Luigi Torchi, and Jean-Baptiste Schwilgué), although it possess only two keys—for numbers 1 and 3. The device looks like an experimental model and was probably a small plaything for the young engineer.

The adding device (Addirmaschine) of Fritz Arzberger was initially presented in the journal Schweizerische Polytechnische Zeitschrift, Volume 11 (1866), Issue 2, pp. 33 (see the page 33) and 34 (see the page 34), and was later in 1896 described by Фон-Бооль, in his book Приборы и машины для механическаго производства арифметических действий.

The adding device of Arzberger (see the lower drawing) consists of a plate (marked with a), which can be put in a tilted position using a wedge. On the plate is mounted a rotatable big 200-teeth ratchet wheel (b). The two keys (I and III) are mounted on a common axis (c) and the ending-rods (d and e). The spring (p) returns the key to the initial position after depression.

The calculating machine of Friedrich Arzberger (from Фон-Бооль, Приборы и машины для механическаго производства арифметических действий.)
The calculating machine of Friedrich Arzberger (from Фон-Бооль, Приборы и машины для механическаго производства арифметических действий.)

The fixing mechanism is provided by means of a spring and a fixing arm (marked with f on the nearby drawing).

The movement of the keys is limited by means of the pins (gh and i). In order to avoid the over-rotation during a fast keystroke, are provided two additional pins (k and l).

One of the spokes of the big wheel (b) has a opening (m), to which can inserted a metallic pin with a key on the outer edge and spring-plate on the inner edge. Using this pin, the wheel can be rotated and fixed to the desired position or reset (the spring is in a straight status during the normal keystroke operation, so it is not working).

The null position is marked with an index (marked with n).

The entering of numbers is quite cumbersome. For example, in order to enter 8, the operator must press key III, then key I, then key III and to finish with key I. Interestingly, in the description Arzberger mentioned, that he decided to include only two keys, in order to avoid mistakes during the input, as using two fingers instead of ten is much easier and safe for the operator (one finger for each key).

Biography of Friedrich Arzberger

Friedrich Arzberger in 1851, a drawing from his uncle Moritz Ludwig von Schwind
Friedrich Arzberger in 1851, a drawing from his uncle Moritz Ludwig von Schwind

Friedrich Franz Ludwig (Fritz) Arzberger was born on 14 November 1833, in Vienna, a son of the German-born Austrian technologist Johann Arzberger (1778-1835) and his second wife Wilhelmine Josepha von Schwind (15.11.1798-1836) from Stuttgart (a sister of the famous Austrian painter Moritz Ludwig von Schwind). Johann Arzberger married Magdalena Holzmann in 1817, and they had a daughter Ernestine, however this marriage ended in 1825 with Magdalena’s death. On 3 April 1826 Arzberger married Wilhelmina Josepha von Schwind, and fathered Moritz (12.01.1827-14.03.1892), who became a very good engineer and inventor, our hero Friedrich, and Augustine Freiin Arzberger-von Schwind (1829-1880).

Johann Arzberger was born on 10 April 1778 in Arzberg im Baireuthischen, and acquired his scientific education in Koburg and Erlangen. He was hired in December 1808 as director of the physical-mechanical instrumental factory in Daubrawitz in Moravia, and in 1815 as director of mechanical engineering at the ironworks in Blansko near Brno. In Jan 1816 he received the professorship of mechanical engineering at the Vienna Polytechnic Institute and the management of the local model workshop, both of which he held until his death in 1835. He published several treatises on subjects of mechanics, and made valuable experiments on the elasticity of water vapor at different temperatures. He was a talented engineer and inventor (he was a pioneer of urban street lighting and in 1820 he constructed a steam car, which was determined to move on ordinary roads without use of rails).

Unfortunately Johann Arzberger died on 18 Dec 1835 of apoplexy, when Friedrich was only two years old. The next year, 1836, died Friedrich’s mother, Wilhelmine. Friedrich’s eldest uncle August Freiherr von Schwind (1800-1892), a highly ranked Austrian government officer, took over the guardianship of his sister’s children (with the help of his younger brothers, Moritz, a prominent Austrian painter, and Franz, a very good engineer), and he gave them a good education. During his school years, Fritz dealt with his father tools, with locks, watchmaker and carpentry work and worked in the workshops of friendly craftsmen. The Revolution of 1848 Fritz Arzberger spent with his youngest uncle Franz Karl Augustin von Schwind (1806-1877), who worked as a manager of the salt mines in Bad Aussee. Friedrich also gained professional experience there.

In 1851 Arzberger commenced his education at the Polytechnic Institute in Vienna, then moved to Bergakademie (Mining Academy) in Schemnitz and Montanlehranstalt in Leoben, where he studied mathematics and chemistry in particular. In 1856 Arzberger graduated at Leoben.

After spending some time from 1856 studying mines throughout Europe, and gaining some practical experience with his brother Moritz who ran a company in the iron industry in Waidhofen an der Ybbs, in 1861 Arzberger became a control officer of the Imperial Mining and Metallurgy in Jenbach. In 1863-1866 he managed the operation of two blast furnaces in Vordernberg.

In 1866 Arzberger started his career as a professor, initially in Bergakademie (Mining Academy) in Příbram, then from 1877 he was a professor of mechanical technology in TU Brünn (now Brno, Czech republic), later 1882-1892 he was a professor in Technische Hochschule Wien and Director of the Normaleichungskommision, Ministerialrat.

Arzberger was the inventor of an imaginative gravity escapement, and was an expert (he had several publications) on electrical clocks. In 1870s he developed several medical instruments like hemorrhoidal cooler, heart-cooler, etc. For his merits he was granted with Knight of the Leopold Order.

Friedrich Arzberger married to Maria Arzberger (Westhauser) (died 20 Feb 1903) and they had two children— Dr. Johann (Hans) Arzberger (26.11.1862-23.03.1946) and Wilhelmine Klara Auguste von Schwind (29.06.1864-27.11.1894).

Friedrich Arzberger died on 3 August 1905 in Rindbach bei Ebensee.

Joseph-Marie Jacquard

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
Theodore Roosevelt

Joseph-Marie Jacquard (1752-1834)
Joseph-Marie Jacquard (1752-1834)

Joseph-Marie Jacquard was not the inventor of the programmable loom, as it is generally acknowledged, in fact he created an attachment to the loom, which played a very important role not only in the textile industry, but also in development of other programmable machines, such as computers, for example the Analytical Engine of Charles Babbage and tabulating machine of Hollerith.

Jacquard started seeking an improvement in the draw loom at the end of 1770s, while working as a master weaver and silk merchant in Lyon. His work was interrupted by a number of dubious entrepreneurial investments and the Revolution. It was probably in 1799, when he decided to return to the automation of weaving, an occupation, which will made his name unforgettable.

In July 1800 Joseph Jacquard applied for his first patent—a treadle loom, then a loom to weave fishing nets in 1803, and starting in 1804, the Jacquard loom, which would weave patterned silk automatically. Jacquard took out a patent on his first loom on 23 December 1800, for a machine designed to replace the draw-boy in the manufacture of figured fabrics. First looms of Jacquard were unsuccessful however, not only because were not operating well, but also for strong opposition by the silk-weavers. When in 1801, after a successful exposition in Paris (he was awarded a bronze medal for the loom by the French government), Jacquard exhibited his first loom in Lyon, the weavers, thinking their bread and butter endangered by the new machine, mobbed the inventor and broke up his invention. Three times the life of Jacquard was threatened by fanatics. Jacquard describes the occurrence himself—”The iron was sold for old iron, the wood for fuel, while I was delivered over to universal ignominy.”

Luckily, Jacquard’s achievement came to the knowledge of the Prefect of the Department, he was summoned before that functionary, and, on his explanation of the working of the machine, a report on the subject was forwarded to the Emperor Napoleon. The inventor was summoned to Paris with his machine, and brought into the presence of the Emperor, who received him with the consideration due to his genius. The interview lasted two hours, during which Jacquard, placed at his ease by the Emperor’s affability, explained to him the improvements which he proposed to make in the looms for weaving figured goods. The result was, that he was provided with apartments in the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers, where he had the use of the workshop during his stay, and was provided with a suitable allowance for his maintenance.

It is out of the question, that Jacquard was informed about the earlier attempts of his fellow-citizens Basile Bouchon, Jean Falcon and Jacques de Vaucanson to create an automated loom. While in Paris, he examined the loom of Vaucanson in the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers and suggested various improvements in his own, which he gradually perfected to its final state.

An old Jacquard loom
An old Jacquard loom

One of the first improvements of Jacquard was to eliminate the paper strip from Vaucanson’s mechanism and to return to Falcon’s chain of punched cards. Then, he tried to avoid the expensive metal cylinders of Vaucanson. In fact, the term Jacquard loom is a misnomer, actually Jacquard’s invented an attachment (head), that adapts to a great many type of looms, that allow the weaving machine to create the intricate patterns often seen in Jacquard weaving. Thus any loom that uses the attachment is called a Jacquard loom.

Each position in the punched card of the loom corresponds to a hook, which can either be raised or stopped dependent on whether the hole is punched out of the card or the card is solid. The hook raises or lowers the harness, which carries and guides the warp thread so that the weft will either lie above or below it. The sequence of raised and lowered threads is what creates the pattern. Each hook can be connected via the harness to a number of threads, allowing more than one repeat of a pattern. For example, a loom with a 500-hook head might have four threads connected to each hook, resulting in a fabric that is 2000 warp ends wide with four repeats of the weave going across.

In April 1805 the Emperor and Empress Josephine visited Lyon, and during their tour, they viewed Jacquard’s new loom, and Napoleon exclaimed for Jacquard here is a man of vast talent and industry who is happy with so little. Jacquard granted the patent for Jacquard’s loom to the city of Lyon as public property. In return, Jacquard received a lifelong pension of 3000 francs, a huge sum for the time. Moreover, he received a royalty of 50 francs for each loom that was bought and used during the period of six years. This was a generous attitude towards the inventor and made him rich. By 1812 there were some 11000 Jacquard looms in use in France and despite energetic French efforts to keep the technology secret, they were also beginning to appear in other countries.

Jacquard’s genius obviously lay not in originating the revolutionary ideas behind his loom, but in building upon the work of previous innovators, bringing their ideas together, adding his own insights, and solving a variety of practical engineering problems, to create an automatic loom that was fast, reliable and most importantly—commercially viable. Jacquard’s loom revolutionized the speed at which decorated silk fabrics could be woven. Using the Jacquard loom, a skilled weaver could produce two feet of decorated silk fabric per day, compared with one inch per day that could be produced by a skilled two man draw loom team.

The modern Jacquard looms are using image scanners, allowing any visual image to be woven to be inputted into the loom. The scanner, in turn, is linked to a computer, that converts the image into pixels in a program, which is used to control the hooks that lift the correct warp threads to form the image during the weaving process.

Biography of Joseph-Marie Jacquard

Joseph-Marie Jacquard (1752-1834)
Joseph-Marie Jacquard (1752-1834)

Joseph-Marie Charles (known as Jacquard after the nickname of his family) was born on 7 July 1752, in the Lyons parish of St Nizier, France. He was the fifth of nine children into the conservative Catholic family of Jean Charles (1724-1772) (a son of Bartholomew Charles from Lyon’s Couzon-Au-Mont d’Or suburb), a master weaver of brocaded fabrics, and his wife, Antoinette Rive, who worked as a pattern reader. From the nine children, only Joseph and his sister Clémence (born 7 Nov 1747) survived to adulthood.

Like the sons of many Lyons weavers, Joseph-Marie did not go to school, because his father needed him to perform odd jobs in the workshop. He learned to read as a thirteen-year-old boy by his brother-in-law Jean-Marie Barret (who married Clémence in Jan 1765), a cultured man (a bookseller and printer), who also introduced Joseph to learned societies and scholars.

Antoinette Rive died on 16 July 1762, and after her end the family slid into poverty. Initially Joseph worked in his father’s workshop, but when he was of age to learn a trade, his father placed him with a book-binder. An old clerk, who made up the master’s accounts, gave him some lessons in mathematics. Joseph very shortly began to display a remarkable turn for mechanics, and some of his contrivances quite astonished the old clerk, who advised his father to put him to some other trade, in which his peculiar abilities might have better scope than in bookbinding. Thus Joseph was accordingly put apprentice to a cutler; but was so badly treated by his master, that he shortly afterwards left his employment, on which he was placed with a type-founder.

Surprisingly, when Jean Charles died in 1772, Joseph inherited more assets than anyone expected: his father’s apartment, the workshop with two looms, as well as some other real estate (a vineyard and quarry). In 1778, he listed his occupations as master weaver and silk merchant, and apparently at that time he started seeking an improvement in the draw loom. In the same year (26 July 1778) he married to the rich widow Claudine Boichon (1751-14 July 1825). Their only son, Jean-Marie, was born in April, 1779. In the next few years however, Joseph took part in a number of dubious entrepreneurial investments and soon fell deeply into debt and was brought to court, loosing his inheritance and part of his wife’s property. So in 1783 he slid again into poverty. Claudine stayed with their son in Lyon, working in a straw-hat factory, while Joseph tried his luck in other places as a lime-burner, a laborer in a plaster quarry, etc., before to return in Lyon in the end of 1780s. Back in Lyon Joseph prosecuted his improvement in the draw loom for the better manufacture of figured fabrics, and he brought out his contrivance for selecting the warp threads, which, when added to the loom, superseded the services of a draw-boy. The adoption of this machine was slow but steady, and in ten years after its introduction, many of them were found at work in Lyon.

Joseph-Marie Jacquard (1752-1834)
Joseph-Marie Jacquard

Unfortunately, Jacquard’s pursuits were rudely interrupted by the Revolution, and in 1793, he and his son took part in the unsuccessful defense of Lyon against the troops of the Convention, and when the city fell, the two fled together, then adopted false names and joined the Revolutionary army. After seeing some active service in the Army of the Rhine, where Joseph rose to the rank of sergeant, in 1797 Jean-Marie was shot down in a battle, and his father returned to Lyon in 1798, lost again the plot of his life. After a stay in the hospital, he worked at various odd jobs—repairing looms, weaving, bleaching straw hats, driving horse-drawn carts, etc. It was probably in 1799, when he decided to return to the automation of weaving, an occupation, which will made his name unforgettable.

After the patent application of Jacquard loom in 1800, it took quite a few years to achieve success. In 1801, the loom was exhibited at the Exposition des produits de l’industrie française in Paris, where he was awarded a bronze medal. In 1803 Jacquard was summoned to Paris and attached to the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers. A loom by Jacques de Vaucanson on display there suggested various improvements in his own, which he gradually perfected to its final state. The loom was declared public property in 1805, and Jacquard was rewarded with a pension and a royalty on each machine. Although his invention was fiercely opposed by the silk-weavers, who feared that its introduction, owing to the saving of labor, would deprive them of their livelihood, its advantages secured its general adoption. Initially few Jacquard looms were sold because of problems with the punched card mechanism. Only after 1815 (once Jean Antoine Breton had solved the problems with the punched card mechanism), did sales of looms increase.

In 1819 Jacquard was awarded by the Government a gold medal and Cross of the Legion of Honor, for the invention of the automatic punched-card loom.

In the beginning of 1820s Joseph-Marie Jacquard retired to the pretty village of Oullins, a few miles from Lyons, where he enjoyed a prosperous rural life, even herding sheep. He died peacefully at Oullins, on 7 August 1834, aged 82.