Jean-Paul Garnier

Jean-Paul Garnier (1801-1869)
Jean-Paul Garnier (1801-1869)

In the middle of 1843 the brilliant French mechanic and watchmaker Jean-Paul Garnier (best known for providing railway stations in France, Argentina and Romania with station clocks), filed a patent application to the Department of Agriculture and Commerce for a mechanical calculating machine (France was one of the first major industrialized countries to adopt legislation on patents in 1791.) The six-years patent for a simple adding device was granted on 30 October 1843 (see Brevet d’invention No. 15915).

The calculating machine of Garnier (see the patent drawing on the lower image) seems to have a simple and reliable construction and a watch-like result mechanism (dials). Unfortunately, nothing (besides the patent description) for this device survived our time.

Interestingly, Jean-Paul Garnier started his career as a watchmaker in 1820 in the workshop of the famous French watchmakers of the 18th and 19th centuries—Lépine (Lépine, Philibert and Jean-Antoine were also the creators of an early calculating machine, see machine arithmetique of Lépine).

The patent drawing of Jean-Paul Garnier's computer
The patent drawing of Jean-Paul Garnier’s computer

Biography of Jean-Paul Garnier

Jean-Paul Garnier (known usually as Paul Garnier), was born on 16 November 1801 in Épinal dans les Vosges (the Lorraine region), in a poor family of musicians. Jean-Paul was forced to begin his professional career as ten years old boy as an apprentice in a printing shop, then he completed a locksmith apprenticeship in Épinal, and finally, he became a watchmaker apprentice in Luxeuil-les-Bains.

Garnier’s passion and competence for mechanics secured him a place in 1820 in the workshop of the famous watchmakers of the time—Lépine (Lépine, Philibert, and Jean-Antoine were also the creators of an early calculating machine), in Paris, then in the workshop the famous French clock-maker Antide Janvier (1751–1835). Five years later he started as an independent watchmaker, setting up his own workshop at Rue Taitbout 8.

Paul Garnier was one of the most skillful masters of his time in electric clocks (he first applied electric transmission to clocks in France in 1847 and in 1851 he received a gold medal at the Great Exhibition in London) and has numerous inventions in the field of watchmaking. Let’s mention some:
• Free escapement and winding constant force (presented to the Academy of Sciences in 1826)
• Precision regulator to astronomical data (presented at the Universal Exhibition of Besançon)
• Sphygmometer (an instrument used to view with the human eye movement of arterial blood)
• Travel clocks or car accessible to everyone
• Revolutions counter
• Device that indicates the exact time of passage of the train station

Paul Garnier is famous for providing all stations in France, Argentina and Romania with station clocks. Garnier gave his entire collection of watches and clocks in the Louvre museum, where there is nowadays a room named after Paul Garnier. He is considered an important watchmaker and holder of various patents, including for escapement systems and other clock devices. He developed the Garnier escapement named after him in 1829 and received a patent for it in 1830.

Paul-Casimir Garnier (1834-1916)
Paul-Casimir Garnier (1834-1916)

Paul Garnier was a member of the French Society of Civil Engineers and also the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. He was a jury member at the Besançon Universal Timepiece Exhibition. Many medals are awarded to him at world exhibitions including his work on electromagnetic telegraph clocks. In 1861, he was chosen by the French government to make proposals for the development and influence of the watch industry.

Garnier signed himself Paul Garnier, Horloger & Mecanicien a Paris, Horloger Mecanicien de la Marine and Horloger du Roi (clockmaker of the King).

Paul Garnier was married to Mélanie Abel Duval and they had two daughters–Virginie (1830-1912), and Léonide (1831-1908), and a son—Paul-Casimir (6 March 1834–13 July 1916). Paul-Casimir Garnier (see the nearby photo) was an engineer and officier de la légion d’honneur, worked in the business of his father, and later became his successor together with his nephew Paul-Pierre Blot-Garnier (1871-1938).

Jean-Paul Garnier died in Paris on 14 February 1869 and was buried at Cimetière du Père-Lachaise.