Maurel and Jayet

None of us is as smart as all of us.
Ken Blanchard

In 1841 in Paris the young French student Timoléon-Louis Maurel (1819-1879) (later a good French clock-maker and inventor) devised and in the next 1842 obtained a patent for 15 years (see patent No. FR14529 from 18 November 1842) for his first calculating machine for multiplication and division, which certainly can be used for addition and subtraction also.

Several years later (in 1846) Maurel patented (this time together with his fellow student and friend—Jean Jayet (1820-1904), an improved version of the machine (see patent No. FR4777), and in 1847 they got a Great Britain patent (No. 184711928). Interestingly, Maurel and Jayet later claimed that they were unaware of the existence of Pascal’s machine when they embarked on the design of their own, while they were still students in philosophy class. Moreover, they didn’t mention the machine of Thomas also, and later there was an industrial property dispute between Thomas and Maurel (this dispute was not in the legal field since the first patent Thomas has long since expired), although they obviously “borrowed” the stepped drum mechanism from Arithmometer of Thomas.

The prototype of the device was presented at the Exposition Nationale de 1849 in Paris and caused a sensation, being awarded the gold medal by the President of the Republic, Prince Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte. An article in the l’Illustration magazine reports that the 10-digit machine costs 2000 F and recommends the government to order twenty examples, to be distributed among the main ministries. Subsequently, the machine was awarded the Prix de mécanique of the Fondation Montyon (1000 F, enough to finance the construction of a new prototype).

The Arithmaurel of Maurel and Jayet from 1854 (© Musée des arts et métiers, Paris)
The Arithmaurel of Maurel and Jayet, an example from 1854 (© Musée des arts et métiers, Paris)

Maurel was a holder of another 15-year French patent from 1860 for a calculating machine (No. 46757), again with a stepped cylinder mechanism, but with simpler construction, as well as several patents in other countries, e.g. Austria and England.

This remarkable for its time calculating machine became famous under the name Arithmaurel.

In 1849 the famous French physicist and author, Father François-Napoléon-Marie Moigno (1804–1884), published an article for Thomas, Maurel, and Jayet (La Presse, 6 March 1849, reprinted in Cosmos, Jan. 1854, see the article of Moigno), whom he affectionately describes as “young artists”. His article evokes their common effort: After ten years of difficult studies, incessant combinations, expensive trials, incredible privations, and frightening misery, they built the first machine. Proud of this first success, they left Isère for long journeys from their village to Paris, from Paris to Lille, and from Lille to London, asking everywhere for financial support (fifteen thousand francs). They finally meet a patron who gave them the money for paying patent rights, offered them enough to live on and pay the wages of the workers they employed, and send them “to one of those humble villages of Franche-Comté, where to build with so much perfection and at such a low price the innumerable cogs of their watches and clocks”.

Joseph-Thaddäus Winnerl (1799-1886), the manufacturer of Arithmaurel
Joseph-Thaddäus Winnerl (1799-1886), the manufacturer of Arithmaurel

Encouraged by the early success of the machine, the inventors planned to start mass production of their device, and established the company “T. Maurel, J. Jayet & Cie.”, registered at the beginning of 1851 in the court of Grenoble. In 1848 the inventors settled in Paris, trying to organize the production of the machine. Around 1850 they assigned the production of the device to the famous Austrian-French clockmaker Joseph-Thaddäus Winnerl (1799-1886), one of the best watchmakers in Europe. Winnerl, was born in Mureck, Styria, and was trained and worked in Austria, Germany, and Denmark, but in 1829 he settled in France, where in 1831 he established his own workshop in Paris (43 avenue de l’Observatoire), and soon became an outstanding manufacturer of chronometers, marine clocks, and balance wheels. Interestingly, Maurel and Jayet even lived some time at the same address as the workshop and obviously were engaged in the production.

Until 1854, Winnerl was not able to build any of the 8-digit machines (a minimum for any professional usage) that had been ordered, but until the late 1850s about thirty handmade copies of Arithmaurel were produced in his workshop, and several devices managed to survive to our time. Unfortunately, the construction of the machine was too complex for the technology of the middle of the 19th century. The devices had a very clever design but were expensive, fragile, and error-prone, so they were not competitive with the simpler, but cheap and reliable calculating machines of Thomas de Colmar.

The dimensions of the machine are: 20,5 x 18,2 x 29 cm. Materials used are: bronze, enamel plates, and mahogany (for the case).

The calculating mechanism is based on the stepped drum of Leibniz. The multiplicand is entered by means of the stems in the upper part of the machine. Pulling or pushing these stems, the stepped drums in the box will be moved, so different numbers of teeth will be contacted by the calculating mechanism during the rotation of the handle. The multiplier is entered by means of the four keys in the lower part of the machine and can be seen in the four dials near the keys. On the dials are inscribed two rows of digits (from 0 to 9) on the left and right parts of the dial. The first half is used during division, while the other—is during multiplication. After entering the multiplicand and multiplier, by rotating the handle on the right side of the box, the calculating mechanism and drums will make one revolution and the result can be seen in the central dials. The upper row of dials is for storing the intermediate result during the multiplication of more than two numbers.

During the division, the keys must be rotated in the direction, contrariwise to the multiplication. The reset mechanism is placed on the side.

The Arithmaurel of Maurel and Jayet
Nouvelle machine à calculer, par MM. Maurel et Jayet, L’Illustration, n° 321, 24 avril 1849

Let’s see the operating instructions for the machine:
1. Always reset the machine before starting a new operation.
2. To add 668 to 258, enter 668 on the sliders, then scroll through a division with the handle of the dial of the units. 668 is displayed in the totalizer. Enter 258 on the sliders and run one more division on the handle of the unit dial. The final result, 926, is displayed on the totalizer. There is no need to reset the unit dial between the two operations.
3. To subtract 258 from 364, enter 364 on the sliders, then scroll through a division with the handle of the dial of the units. 364 is displayed in the totalizer. Then enter 258 on the sliders and run through a division in the reverse direction with the handle of the dial of the units. The final result, 106, is displayed on the totalizer.
4. To multiply 668 by 258, enter 668 on the sliders, then scroll through 8 divisions with the handle of the units dial, 5344 is displayed in the result windows, and the units dial displays 8. Then cycle through 5 divisions the handle of the tens dial, 38744 is displayed, and then 2 divisions to that of the hundreds. The final result, 172344, is written on the totalizer. The dials display 00258.
5. The division is a sequence of subtractions that require a lot of concentration from the operator.

The described in the patent machine can be used for the multiplication of 8-digit to 4-digit numbers, the result mechanism is also 8-digit. There are also machines with different numbers of positions.

According to the above-mentioned article of Father Moigno from 1849, using the Arithmaurel a multiplication of two 8-digit numbers can be done for 18 seconds, while a division of 15-digit to 8-digit numbers can be done for 24 seconds, which was a remarkable calculating speed at that time.

The end of Arithmaurel was miserable. After numerous problems with production, on 8 April 1856 (one year before the basic patent expires), the company T. Maurel, J. Jayet & Cie. was dissolved. Maurel was responsible for liquidating it, completing the Arithmaurels being manufactured to sell them, and finding a buyer for the patents. Some unfinished machines, as well as lots of parts, will be kept for a long time and finally went for scrap in 1914.

Biographical data about Maurel and Jayet

Little is known about the inventors of this amazing for that time machine, the engineers Timoléon-Louis Maurel and Jean Jayet. They came from the same part of the country—southeastern France. Maurel originate from Gap, the capital and largest town of the Hautes-Alpes department, while Jayet was from Voiron, a French municipality in Isère department.

Timoléon-Zoé-Louis Maurel was born on 16 November 1819 in Barâtié (now Baratier). He was the son of Antoine Maurel from Embrun, a lawyer at the court of Gap, and Anne Thérèse Joubert. We know that he was a student (as well as Jayet) in Paris in 1842 when he applied for his first patent. Maurel had a son Leon Mary Louis (1857-1902). He married on 15 Dec 1873 in Paris to Virginie Bourgeat (1826-1877), born in Corenc, daughter of Laurent Antoine Bourgeat and Katherine Lawrence. Maurel died in 1879 in Paris.

Jean Pierre Honoré Jayet Dauphiné (known as Jean Jayet) was born on 15 May 1820 in Voiron. He was the eldest son of Jean Baptiste Jayet (Dauphiné) (b. 1792–d. 7 Aug 1852), a Voiron baker and innkeeper, and his wife Anne Guillaud (1795-1864). Besides Jean Pierre, the family had two younger sons—Antoine Victor (b. 1821), and Gaspard Jules (b. 1824), and three daughters—Anne (b. 1819), Emilie Adèle (b. 1827), and Eleonore Sophie (b. 1829). Jean Pierre married two times: On 7 October 1858 he married Adrienne Suzanne Vieux in Noyarey, Isère, Rhône-Alpes; then on 18 February 1860, in Voiron, he married Seraphie Marie Josephine Borel (born 1832), and they had a daughter, Lucie Josephine (born 1861). Jean Jayet died in Paris on 27 June 1904.

It seems around 1850 Maurel and Jayet both have been appointed assistant weights and measures checkers (vérificateur poids et mesures), respectively for the 10th and 11th districts of Paris and for the district of St. Denis. Jayet worked for many years in that job (as an auditor), while Maurel soon left to seek a more profitable and interesting position. In his 1860 patent, Maurel was specified as a “mechanics engineer”.

Timoléon Maurel was a holder of a total of ten patents in various fields, including pharmacy, but especially watchmaking (e.g. for pendulum, mechanical leech machine, etc.) After the failure of the production of Arithmaurel, he resettled on rue du Parc-Royal in Paris and quickly reoriented his activity in a workshop manufacturing travel alarm clocks, which he patented and which respond better than the Arithmaurel to the solvent demands of the nascent industrial nation.