Knut Wiberg

The patent drawing of US517319
The patent drawing of US517319 of Knut Wiberg

It seems almost at the same time as Peter Landin (around 1890), his compatriot Knut Edward Wiberg from Stockholm invented a very similar adding machine. However, in contrast with Landin’s device, Wiberg’s adding apparatus remained only on paper and besides the patent applications, nothing is known about it.

In the early 1890s, Wiberg received (at least) two patents for his machine—in France (pat. Nr. 229008 from 29 March 1893), and in the USA (pat. Nr. 517319 from 27 March 1894). In both patents, Wiberg specified as coinventor or assignor his compatriot Gustaf Fredrik Berndes.

The adding apparatus of Knut Wiberg is a simple chain adder, similar to the invented in 1670s Abaque Rhabdologique of Claude Perrault, which was implemented into the later adding devices of César Caze and Heinrich Kummer. The principal defect of these machines is the characteristic feature of rebounding bars, which are noisy, confusing, and unreliable when rapidly operated, as well as the weakness and insufficiency of the carrying mechanisms.

The device of Wiberg made use of a series of number rings and these are actuated by rocking number plates, and there are connections from the same acting through peculiarly constructed pawl mechanism to turn the number rings progressively the extent of the numbers that are added from time to time, and the total footings are visible through an opening in the case that contains the number rings. There is a pusher for returning the rack plates to their normal positions. In the drawings, three sets of devices are made use of, for units, tens, and hundreds, but the number of sets of devices may be increased as desired.

Biographycal Data for Wiberg and Berndes

Gustaf Fredrik Berndes (1834-1913)
Gustaf Fredrik Berndes (1834-1913)

Almost nothing is known about the inventor of this adding device—Knut Edward (Edvard) Wiberg from Stockholm. There is a famous 19th-century Swedish inventor with the same surname, Martin Olsson Wiberg, but a connection between the two Wibergs cannot be found. Interestingly, Martin Wiberg had a son, Knut Alexis Wiberg (1854-1918). There is, however, some information about the coinventor of this machine—Gustaf Berndes, a Swedish politician, mill-owner, and landowner.

Gustaf Fredrik Berndes was born on 25 January 1834 in Stockholm, Adolf Fredriks parish. He was the son of the councilor of the Swedish Board of Mines Fredrik Anton Berndes (1791-1871) and Maria Isabella Wegelin (1800-1875). Gustaf enrolled at the University of Uppsala in 1852 and took his mining degree there in 1856. Then he studied for two years at the Bergsskolan i Falun (a technical college) in 1857-58. From 1859 until 1871, he took a scholarship at the Jernkontorets Metallurgical State (Sweden’s oldest industry organization). He was manager of Ljusne järnverk (iron mill) from 1871 to 1886 and was appointed by Jernkontoret as a member of the board of the Royal Institute of Technology from 1896 to 1912. Berndes was a member of the Lantmanna Party, was also active as a municipal official, and was a member of Sweden’s Riksdag for a couple of terms.

Gustaf Berndes married twice. First, in 1874 to Johanna Fredrika Larsson (1854-10 May 1875). Second marriage—in Dec 1883 to Elin Sofia Pettersson (1860-1933). They had three children: Johanna Maria (1885-1969), Eleonor Maria Berndes-Lilliehöök (1887-1977), and Gustaf (Gösta) Fredrik (1888-1957).

Gustaf Fredrik Berndes died on 28 February 1913 on his farm Molnsättra in Jakobsberg, Järfälla.