Cesar Caze

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
Leonardo da Vinci

Nouvelles de la république des lettres
Nouvelles de la République des Lettres, May 1707

The simple adding device of the Frenchman Cesar Caze (1641-1719), which he called Nouvelle machine arithmétique and created around 1696, could be considered as one of the most basic calculating devices, which can be invented, a simplified version of the Abaque Rhabdologique of Claude Perrault.

Between 1704 and 1708 Caze corresponded on the topic of calculating devices, including his own, with Leibniz. The device was mentioned for the first time in May 1707, in the second issue of the French journal Nouvelles de la république des lettres, published in Amsterdam (see the nearby image). In the journal, in the paragraph for arithmetic, after mentioning the invention of binary arithmetic by Leibnitz, it is said that Mr. Caze created and demonstrated to the public a rather curious Machine. And that’s all!

In 1711 Caze managed to get a privilege (patent) for his calculating device.

There are several examples of the adding device of Caze, which survived to our time, all of them made in the first half of the 18th century. The example, shown in the photo below, was manufactured in 1720. There are three copies with different dimensions and materials used in the collection of CNAM, Paris. Dimensions of one of the CNAM devices are: 3 cm x 18.5 cm x 29.6 cm, weigh 310 g. IBM’s example is smaller: 27 x 17 cm, weight 80 g. Materials used are wood, cardboard, paper, brass, and textiles.

The device consists of movable rulers (bars) with inscribed digits, which can be seen in windows. The upper row of windows (over the rulers) is used during adding operations, while the lower row (its digits in fact are a complement to 10 of the digits in the upper windows), is used during subtraction. The constriction is so simplified, that the device even doesn’t have a tens carry mechanism.

The New Arithmetical Machine of Caze (© IBM Europe collection)
The New Arithmetical Machine of Caze (© IBM Europe collection)

The rightmost 3 rulers are used for adding sols and deniers (french monetary units at this time, 1 sol is equal to 1/20 of the livre, and 1 denier is 1/12 of the sol). The next 12 rulers are decimal and can be used for adding up to hundreds of billions. The rulers are moving by means of a wooden stylus.

The practical usefulness in calculations of such a simple device is quite questionable, but nevertheless, the machine of Caze gained some popularity at the beginning of the 17th century under the bombast name Nouvelle machine arithmétique de Caze (The New Arithmetical Machine of Caze). Similar devices were invented many times during the next two centuries after Caze, for example, the device, invented in 1846 by Heinrich Kummer. The device of Kummer however is capable to perform carrying from one column to another.

The New Arithmetical Machine of Caze (© CNAM, Paris)
The New Arithmetical Machine of Caze (© CNAM, Paris)

Biography of Cesar Caze

The French Huguenot (Huguenots were a religious group of French Protestants) César Caze, sieur d’Harmonville et du Vernay, was born in Lyon, Rhone, in January 1641, as the first child in the family of Jean Caze (1608-1700) and Marie Huguetan (1601-1677). César had a sister – Isabeau.

Jean Caze was a Lyon Huguenot and wealthy bourgeois (born in Montpellier), titled as conseiller et maître d’hôtel du Roi et auditeur à la Chambre des Comptes de Montpellier(adviser and butler of the King and auditor at the Chamber of Auditors of Montpellier). Marie Huguetan was a daughter of the Lyon bookseller and bookbinder Jean Antoine Huguetan (1567-1650) and a sister of the lawyer Jean Huguetan (1599-1671), and the bookseller Jean Antoine Huguetan (1615-1681). Jean Caze and Marie Huguetan married on 4 April 1640, in Lyon. Marie was a widow from 1630.

César Caze had a younger brother—Jean Jacques Caze (born November 1644, in Lyon), and an elder brother (from the first marriage of his mother) Jean Antoine de La Motte.

On 3 April 1677, César Caze married in Charenton-le-Pont, Val-de-Marne, to the young Catherine de Monginot (1660–4 Sep. 1719), the daughter of Etienne de Monginot de la Salle, a well known Parisian doctor (b. 1627). The family had a son—Jean Caze (1682-1751), and a daughter, who died in infancy.

Since 1675 César Caze managed a tobacco farm, but in late 1682 he was forced, as many other French Huguenots, to escape from persecution (by the end of the 17th century, some 200000 Huguenots had been driven from France during a series of religious persecutions), to emigrate to the Netherlands. During the European religious wars in the 17th century, many protestants fled to the Dutch Republic, England, and Switzerland, where they sought refuge. It seems the remaining part of his family, including his wife and his son, together with his father Jean, emigrated to Geneva, Switzerland.

In 1683 Case settled in Hague, and the following year he went to Amsterdam. However, his former business partners in France initiated a trial, and Caze was sentenced to pay the sum demanded. Sure of his right, Caze refused to pay (although his father and stepfather were rich men, so he could easily find the money requested), thus he was forced to serve in the prison of Leeuwarden for more than 12 years (from April 1688 to July 1700).

César Caze worked in Amsterdam mainly as a maker of glasses, telescope maker, and general technician, but remained known also for his calculating device, his scientific interests, and busy correspondence with Leibnitz and Huygens, as well as for his dissertation on the use and improvement of arithmetic from the beginning of 18th century (Amsterdam, August 1711, The invention of calculating machines and a dissertation on the use and improvement of arithmetic).

A report from 1696 says that Caze “excelled in mathematics and other studies”. The Amsterdam burgomaster (mayor) Johannes Hude had employed Caze for many years for the city of Amsterdam.

It is known that as early as 1671, Caze had done experiments in Amsterdam with a machine calculating the speed of a ship. A few years later he was involved in the design of clocks and in 1688 he published a tract on balances, De l’usage des staters, ou romaines balances.

César Caze lived in Amsterdam until his death in 1719, separated from his family, which lived in Geneva.