Josef Uržidil

Pečení holubi nelítají do pusy—Baked pigeons don’t fly into your mouth.
Czech proverb

The patent drawing of Additionsmaschine of Josef Uržidil (DE70752)
The patent drawing of the Additionsmaschine of Josef Uržidil (DE70752)

On 5 February 1893, Josef Uržidil (1854-1922), a railway engineer from Žižkov, a small town in the vicinity of Prague, Austro-Hungarian Empire, received a German patent Nr. 70752 (see DE70752) for Additionsmaschine. The adding machine of Uržidil was a key-operated device with a calculating disc. Besides the granted patent, nothing is known about this device, so most probably it remained only on paper, nevertheless let’s examine the adding machine of Josef Uržidil, using the patent application.

The subject of the invention is an addition machine that is suitable for adding a large number of single-digit numbers. Essentially, this machine consists of a toothed wheel R (see the nearby patent drawing), driven by a spiral spring F, which is held by a pawl i and only rotated when one of the pushbuttons marked with numbers is pressed, the associated pressure lever a connected to this forming a frame b, on which the pawl i is attached, depresses, with which the spiral spring F driving the gear R comes into effect and moves the wheel. A lever e plugged onto pin c through a sleeve d, which can also be rotated about the pin f in the vertical direction, and which has an opening g on the end facing frame b, through which the frame b associated bent rod h is inserted, serves to stop the gear R. It is namely when pressing down the frame b, the lever e is pressed into the teeth of the wheel R, which also takes part in the movement of the wheel. But now this lever e strikes the depressed pressure lever and stops the gear wheel R.

If the pressure lever in question is released, the pawl first jumps into the teeth of the wheel R, and the changed position of the wheel is thus fixed. At the same moment, the lever e comes out of the teeth of the wheel R and is driven back by a leaf spring j mounted on the dial in the direction of arrow 1 (Fig. 2), until it strikes a screw k located in the frame b and is stopped there.

All pressure levers a, each of which only belongs to one digit, can be rotated about the pin l, which forms the pin of the lever; the pushbuttons 1, 2, 3,… (see Fig. 7), which are denoted by the first nine digits, protrude from the upper cover plate m (Fig. 1 and 2) and are screwed into these levers. On the lower side of each pressure lever, a leaf spring n is screwed, which has the purpose of snapping the depressed pressure lever back into its original position when the pressure on the button ceases, these levers being held by a fixed plate 0.

The frame b (see Fig. 5) can be rotated about the pin p and is pressed by the leaf springs qq against the adjusting screws introduced in plate 0 (Fig. 2). The pawl i (see Fig. 4 on an enlarged scale) can be rotated about the pin s in the direction of the arrow. The rotation in the other direction is prevented by an attachment t belonging to the frame b, against which a leaf spring u of the pawl also presses.

Biography of Josef Uržidil

Josef Uržidil and his wife Elise
Josef Uržidil (1854-1922) and his wife Elise (1854-1900)

Josef Uržidil was born on 7 January 1854, in the village of Šipín, part of Konstantinovy Lázně in the Tachov District of Plzeň Region (or in Ošelín, Stříbro), to a German-Bohemian family. His father, Johann Nepomuk Uržidil (1813–1894) was a rural teacher in West Bohemia, who eventually worked as a head teacher in Bor u Tachov, and also wrote textbooks on arithmetic, national studies, and grammar, played the organ and the violin. His mother Barbara Heinl (1814–1900) from Weseritz (Bezdružice), a town in the Tachov District in the Plzeň Region, was born to a German-speaking Czech family. Joseph was named after his paternal grandfather Josef, who was a farmer in Holýšov, while his other grandfather Wenzel Heinl, the father of his mother Barbara, was a surgeon and worked as a doctor and obstetrician in Bezdružice.

Josef Uržidil, his wife Elise and his son Johannes, Prague, 1897
Josef, Elise and Johannes Uržidil, Prague, 1897

In 1895 Josef Uržidil married in Prague to Elisabeth (Elise, Elsa) Metzelesová, a widow of Jewish origin (born 1854 in Prague, she was previously married to Bernhard Steinitz (1850–1892), a merchant and half-brother of the great chess master Wilhelm Steinitz), who from the first marriage had already brought seven children. Their only common son, Johann Nepomuk Josef Adolf, was born on 3 February 1896, in their apartment at Krakovská Street No. 30/3 (Prague II). Johann (Johannes) Uržidil (see the nearby photo from 1897) became a famous German-Bohemian writer, poet, and historian. Elise died on 7 January 1900. On 29 May 1904, Josef married for the second time, to Marie-Anna Mostbeck(ová), a Czech from Nymburk (b. 1864).

Josef Uržidil was an engineer, who worked many years as a clerk and senior inspector of State Railways of West Bohemia and Prague.

In the spring of 1922, Josef’s son Johannes ​​bought a house for his father in Bezdružice near Konstantinovy ​​Lázní, the home district of Josef. On 24 December 1922, Josef Uržidil died there.