Ivar Hultman

Yesterday, when it was tomorrow, it was too exciting a day for me.
Winnie the Pooh

Ivar Hultman (1869-1942)
Ivar Hultman (1869-1942) (© Pythagoras Museum, Norrtälje, Sweden)

In the second half of the 1890s, Ivar Hultman (1869-1942), a Swedish mathematician and inventor, together with his partners—Knut Martin Pauli (an engineer, born 1866 in Jönköping) and Julius Waldemar Haglund (a mechanic, born 1877 in Stockholm), devised a pin-wheel calculating machine and applied for patents in several countries. The first patent they got in 1898 (French patent No. 282940 from 12 Nov. 1898 for Machine à calculer), followed by a Swedish patent (SE14935 from 11 May 1900), and a US patent (No. 706180 from Aug 1902). In the same year, 1898, they founded a company, Verkstads AB (Aktiebolaget) Pythagoras (Pythagoras Mechanical Workshop Ltd.) of Norrtälje, Stockholm County, to produce mechanical calculators, hence its name from the Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras. Pauli was the director of the company (and several members of the Pauli family were shareholders in the company), Haglund was the foreman, and Hultman was obviously “the brain” (in fact Hultman left soon, probably in early 1900).

The plans of Pythagoras AB to manufacture calculating machines failed and the factory instead started producing locks, brass candlesticks, and electrical fittings. Nevertheless, later Hultman continued to patent (together with the co-inventor Adolf Magnus Johanson) variants of his calculator in Sweden, the USA, Denmark, and Great Britain. In 1909 the calculator of Hultman, at last, was put into production, although in small series, by the company of famous Swedish inventor and entrepreneur Lars Magnus Ericsson, who made it for a couple of years under the name Mercur.

The Mercur calculator of Hultman/Ericsson
The Mercur calculator of Hultman/Ericsson

Let’s examine the Mercur calculator, described in one of the later patents (US patent No. 878292 of Ivar Hultman and Adolf Magnus Johanson). The dimensions of the device are: length 245 mm, width 477 mm, height 150 mm; the weight is 12.6 kg.
The invention relates to calculating machines more particularly to that class thereof, in which the main wheels are provided each with nine shiftable cogs or teeth adapted to be brought into and out of active position by turning a movable disk or the like connected with the wheel for changing the number of the active cogs.
The object of the improvement is to stop, without failure and at the exact moment, the wheels acted upon by the shiftable cogs and to insure this result without increasing the resistance or affecting in any way the ease of handling the machine.
The device consists of fixed and movable cams, arranged on or connected to the main wheels and adapted to coact with polygonal disks or the like provided on or connected to the gears. The invention involves also means for shifting the position of the movable cams according to the number of acting cogs.

Biography of Ivar Hultman

Frans Vilhelm Hultman (1829-1879)
Frans Vilhelm Hultman (1829-1879)

Ivar Hultman was born on 5 June 1869 in Stockholm, Drottninggatan 64, Klara parish. He was the second son of Frans Vilhelm Hultman (25 May 1829-19 Feb 1879), a teacher in physics and mathematics at Stockholm’s gymnasium (high school), and Augusta Ulrica Amalia Fredrika Teuchler (7 Sep 1839-24 May 1875), who married in March 1864. Vidar had two brothers: Carl Axel Wilhelm, and Eric (1867-1911), and two sisters: Ester (1871-1948), and Siri.

Despite losing his father and mother early (Augusta died only 35 years old in 1875, while Frans died 49 y.o. in 1879), following in the steps of his father (who got a master’s degree in mathematics at Uppsala University in 1854), in the early 1890s, Ivar graduated with a master’s degree (filosofie licentiate) in mathematics.

Despite his natural aptitude for mechanics, it seems Hultman earned his living all his life in the insurance business, as he worked as an actuary in Allmänna Änke- och Pupillkassan i Sverige, one of the world’s oldest life insurance companies, and then he became an actuary and later a deputy manager in Försäkringsaktiebolaget Skandia (his father Frans also worked as an actuary for Skandia in 1871), an old insurance company in Sweden.

Arne Vidar Ivarsson Hultman (1901-1973)
Arne Vidar Ivarsson Hultman (1901-1973)

Besides the abovementioned patents for calculators, Hultman was a holder of quite a few patents for other devices, such as an Ink supply system for writing nibs, Shears for cutting sheet metal and the like, Drill chuck, Blankets for scraping, Mandrel, Clot cartridge or shaft coupling, and others.

Hultman loved to draw and was a skilled pianist. He had a great interest in theosophy and alchemy and translated esoterical writings from English and French to Swedish. He was a friend of the Swedish painter Oskar Bergman (1879-1963), and they were both great admirers and diligent readers of the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and communicated with the Swedenborg society.

Ivar Hultman married to Helga Gottfrida Vilhelmina Richter (1873-1952) from Hångers Storegård, Ljungby, Småland. She too was a skilled pianist and also a wood carver in the Old Norse style. They had a son—Arne Vidar Ivarsson Hultman (1901-1973), who became an engineer, and two daughters Maya (born 1899, died as a child) and Ingrid (1905-1974).

In 1910 Hultman family moved to live in Villa Grantorp, Majorsvägen 8, in Neglinge, Saltsjöbaden.

Ivar Hultman died in Saltsjöbaden in 1942 at 73 years of age.