Polish Contributions to Computing
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Jewna Jakobson [pron. YEV-nah ya-KOB-son] lived in the 18-th century in the town of Nieswiez (or Nieswierz) on the territory of former Poland, then Russia, and now Belorus (Nesvizh or Nyasvizh). Nothing is known about the life of Jakobson, except that he was a clockmaker and mechanic. Nieswiez was since 1533 owned by the Polish magnates’ family Radziwill, and in the 18-th century was the residence of Michal Radziwill, who valued culture, arts and science and was known from fostering inventors and collected a significant amount of artifacts and an extraordinary library.

Major Contribution: Invention of a mechanical calculating machine (probably before 1770).

Basic Question
How was the machine built and how it operated? One copy of the machine has been preserved and is available for viewing at the Lomonosov Museum of Science in St. Petersburg, Russia [1]. According to the only description available in English [2], it is basically a classical pinion wheel combination, which takes its origin in Schickard’s machine. It allowed performing four arithmetic operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. More details on its internal construction are available in Russian [3-4].

The existence of this machine is definitely a very important historical artifact and sign of early development of computing devices in Eastern Europe.

Information on the inventor and data on the machine are very scarce and hard to track down, but we were able to access a couple of Russian language articles written by experts in computing history [3-4]. They may serve as a basis for further, more serious historical studies.

References [hide]

[1] Calculating Machine of Jewna Jakobson, M.V. Lomonosov Museum of Science, St. Petersburg, Russia, http://www.museum.ru/C482
[2] I.A. Apokin, J. Jakobson’s Machine, pp. 27-29, Computing in Russia, G. Trogemann, W. Ernst, A.Y. Nitussov (Eds.), Vieweg, Stuttgart, 2002
[3] L.E. Maystrov, V.L. Chenakal, Stareyshaya schetnaya mashina (The Oldest Calculating Machine), Voprosy istorii estestvoznaniya i tekhniki, No. 26, pp. 35-39, 1969
[4] I.A. Apokin, L.E. Maystrov, Razvitsiye vychislitelnykh mashin, Nauka, Moskva, 1974 (Jakobson’s machine, pp. 74-82)