Franz Cuhel

The Moravian and Austrian economist František Čuhel (1862-1914) (known mainly under his Germanized name Franz Cuhel) obtained his doctorate in law in Prague (Univerzity Karlovy) in 1886, and became a trainee at the Chamber of Commerce in Prague. In 1887 he (together with his brother Heinrich) registered a Priorität for a patent for a simple calculating instrument, called Arithmet. The device was put into production at the end of 19th century by another Czech inventor—A. Fiedler.

Cuhel patent drawing, German patent №59377 from 13 Aug 1890
Cuhel patent drawing (German patent №59377 from 13 Aug 1890)

Several years later Cuhel patented (German patents №59377 from 13 Aug 1890 and №63156 from 13 Oct 1891) much elaborated and interesting calculating device (although it had not been implemented in practice and had no importance in the development of calculating machine technology), which we will examine.

The calculator of Cuhel (see the nearby patent drawing) has eight places in the result mechanism and four places in the setting mechanism. It has thirty-six keys (nine keys repeated four times) in two long rows.

In the calculating mechanism of his machine, Cuhel used the so-called Schaltklinke (switching latch, or switching pawl, described first time by Jacob Leupold in 1727). Cuhel used a system of three-angle levers at every point on his machine instead of a simple switching latch. While these angle levers are rotating, they are pushed by a disk outside, change their position, engage a gear, take it along for a specified angle and then disengage again. The position of the disk that triggers this process and thus determines the active angle of rotation depends on the number set.

Biography of Franz Cuhel

František Čuhel Jr. was born on 12 November 1862, in the Moravian town of Olešnice. He was the first child of the evangelist family of František Čuhel Sr. (1834-1911), who came from the nearby village of Bolešín, and was a farmer and house owner, and Josefa Čuhlova (born Hájekova).

František and Josefa married in 1861 and had (at least) three children, after the eldest—František, they had two more boys: Heinrich, who assisted his older brother in his inventing activities; and Ludvik Rudolph (14 Jan 1875-31 Dec 1908), who emigrated to Iowa, USA, in 1892, and lived there until his death. Josefa Čuhlova died in 1895 and František Čuhel Sr. married Františka Jílková a year later.

František Čuhel Jr. attended gymnasium (grammar school) in Brno in the late 1870s and then the faculty of law at Vienna and Prague (Univerzita Karlova) Universities, where he earned his doctoral degree in 1886. In 1889 he became a clerk in the Prague Chamber of Commerce, was promoted to vice-secretary in 1894, and then to the second secretary in 1898. In the 1890s, Cuhel also publicly worked on behalf of small businessmen. In 1896 he proposed and presented a plan for a “State Anniversary Fund of the Kaiser and King Franz Josef I” to support the community of small businessmen. The fund was established in 1898.

Due to health reasons (in the late nineties, he began to show symptoms of an unspecified mental disorder), Cuhel had to leave the Chamber of Commerce for early retirement in 1903. He returned to Olešnice and later moved to Vienna. His condition gradually improved. In Vienna, in 1908 he became an official of the “General Pension Insurance Company for Private Establishments”. During his life, Cuhel considered several times his habilitation in the field of national economy at the University of Prague and his university career. According to his contemporaries’ accounts, Cuhel was of a “deep academic turn, highly gifted and educated man”.

It seems Cuhel was keen on technics, because besides the above-mentioned calculating devices, he invented several other machines, for example in 1888 he (again together with his brother Heinrich) got a German patent №44042 for Cylinderdreschmaschine (a thresher, machine that separates grain from the plants).

Cuhel used to work as a journalist also, and has contributed articles to the magazines “Lawyer”, “Enlightenment”, “Horizon of National Economy” and “Voice of the Nation”, and edited the magazine “Nové Zprávy”. In 1907 he published his most important work, Zur Lehre von den Bedürfnissen (On the Theory of Needs).

František Čuhel died on 5 December 1914 in Vienna and was buried in Prague at the Šárka Cemetery.