Kurt Dietzschold

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Kurt Dietzschold (1852-1922)
Kurt Dietzschold (1852-1922)

The foundation of the calculating machine industry in Germany, one of the leading industries of its kind for several decades afterward, was laid in the second half of the 1870s by two young German engineers—Kurt Dietzschold (1852-1922) and Arthur Burkhardt (1857–1918), in Glashütte (a small town in Sächsische Schweiz-Osterzgebirge, which is considered as the birthplace of the German watchmaking industry, internationally known for the manufacture of high-quality watches since 1851).

In 1873 Kurt Dietzschold, then a student in Mechanical Engineering at Technischen Hochschule in Karlsruhe, visited the Vienna World Exhibition, where he saw and was fascinated by Thomas de Colmar’s calculating machine. Two years later, in 1875, already a mechanical engineer, Dietzschold decided to create his own calculating machine, with a calculating mechanism based not on the stepped drum of Gottfried Leibnitz (as it was the calculator of Colmar), but on a relatively new type of mechanism—so-called Schaltwerk mit Schaltklinke (rear derailleur with switching latch, or switching pawl). The switching latch mechanism is described first time by Leupold in 1727 and was later used very successfully in Hamann’s machines.

In 1876 Dietzschold was invited to come to Glashütte and to work for the newly founded company Strasser & Rohde, a workshop for the construction of computing machinery, precision equipment, and pendulum clocks (later in 1878 Dietzschold became a co-owner and head of the company). In Glashütte Dietzschold continued his work on the calculating machine, and by 1877 he managed to produce three copies of his machine (made by Lange & Söhne watchmaking workshop) and gave up one of them to the Royal Prussian Statistical Office for testing. However, the statistical office found that the machine did not operate to their full satisfaction. That’s why Dietzschold asked for help from another engineer and one of his most gifted university schoolmates from Karlsruhe—Gotthilf Robert Arthur Burkhardt, who was then serving his time in the army.

Calculating Machine of Kurt Dietzschold, 1877
A modern replica of the calculating machine of Kurt Dietzschold, 1876 (© Arithmeum museum, Bonn)

Arthur Burkhardt came to Glashütte in October 1878, but the next year 1879 his friend Kurt Dietzschold decided to accept the proposal to become a director of Österreichischen Uhrmacherschule in Karlstein and left the town. It seems he never returned to manufacturing calculating machines but kept his theoretical interest (e.g. in 1882 he published a very good article on calculating machines). Two copies of his machine still exist today, one in Vienna (Uhrenmuseum) and another in Dresden (Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon), and one very good replica in Arithmeum Museum, Bonn (see the upper image).

Switching latch principle of work (© C.HAMANN http://public.beuth-hochschule.de/~hamann)
Switching latch principle of work (© C.HAMANN, http://public.beuth-hochschule.de/~hamann)

The calculating machine of Kurt Dietzschold (see its description) has eight digital places in the setting mechanism and 16 digital places in the result mechanism. The dimensions are: 17 x 48 x 12 cm, weight is 9.8 kg.

Biography of Kurt Dietzschold

Kurt Dietzschold (1852-1922)
Kurt Dietzschold (1852-1922)

Kurt (sometimes also written “Curt”) Dietzschold was born in Dresden on 25 March 1852. His father worked for Royal Saxon Railway. After graduating from secondary school, Kurt studied mechanical engineering at the Aachener Polytechnikum, then completed his studies at the Karlsruher Polytechnikum, where he graduated as a mechanical engineer in 1875. In 1876 Dietzschold worked in the Shipbuilding Institute Schick in Dresden, then moved to Glashütte, to work for the newly founded company Strasser & Rohde, a workshop for the construction of computing machinery, precision equipment, and pendulum clocks (later in March 1878 Dietzschold became a co-owner and head of the company).

In 1879 the Austrian government was looking for a new director for the Karlstein Watchmaking School (Österreichischen Uhrmacherschule in Karlstein an der Thaya). Consulted by the government, the professor at the Vienna University of Technology, Leopold Ritter zu Hauffe, recommended the young engineer and manufacturer Kurt Dietzschold to this position on the recommendation of Karl Moritz Großmann, a watchmaker and businessman from Glashütte. On 15 August 1879, Dietzschold became director of the Karlstein Watchmaking School, and kept the position until his retirement in 1903, because of problems with his eyes.

Kurt Dietzschold was the author of many articles and books in the areas of watchmaking and calculating machines, which had a great influence on German watchmaking schools. He was a holder of Austrian Franz-Josefs-Orden and an honorary member of several watchmakers associations.

Kurt Dietzschold died completely blind on 5 May 1922, in Krems an der Donau.