Moses and William Pullen: Pioneers of the Computing Age

Hi there! Have you heard of the Bentham Calculating Machine? This innovative device was invented by a father and son named Moses and William Pullen way back in 1874. I bet you‘re wondering – who were these guys, and what made their creation so special? Let me enlighten you!

In the 19th century, the technological wonders we take for granted today were just starting to develop. The Victorian era saw tinkerers experimenting with calculating gadgets and proto-computers. One lesser known effort that proved very promising was the Bentham Calculating Machine, brainchild of Moses Pullen and his son William.

Moses Pullen was born in 1821 in Manchester, England. By age 20 he had embarked on a career as a mechanic in Bolton. He later transitioned into teaching, becoming a schoolmaster by 1851. Moses eventually settled down in Painswick, Gloucestershire with his wife Ann and children. Their son William Pullen came along in 1856.

Young William was immersed in academics from a young age. He assisted his father as a pupil-teacher, then went on to be a schoolmaster himself like his older brother. The Pullen clan seemed to have an aptitude for learning!

Groundbreaking Gadgetry

Moses taught science classes in the 1860s, counting notable chemist Alexander William Bickerton among his students. But his most groundbreaking work was yet to come.

In the mid 1870s, Moses took on a temporary position as headmaster of Bentham Grammar School in North Yorkshire. This fateful move facilitated a technological breakthrough. Collaborating with his scientifically-minded son William, Moses commenced work on a newfangled calculating device.

This innovative contraption, which they dubbed the Bentham Calculating Machine, implemented internal clockwork mechanisms to rapidly sum long columns of numbers. Rather than laboring hour after hour with pen and paper, users could simply crank the handles and read out the total from numbered dials.

The historic patent they obtained in 1874 described it as "a new or improved mechanism for ascertaining the total of a column or a number of figures by addition." Here‘s a diagram showing how it functioned:

Bentham Calculating Machine Diagram

Crafted primarily from wood, the calculator was produced in three models ranging in price from 10 shillings to 4 pounds. The 18 inch tall devices proved very popular due to their accuracy, ease of use and stylish appearance.

To meet demand, the Pullens converted an old railway warehouse in Bentham into a calculating machine factory in 1875. The busy facility housed lathes, presses and other machinery to fabricate the components.

That same year they launched The Bentham Calculating Machine Company to handle commercialization. With 2,000 shares offered at 5 pounds each, the business was capitalized with 10,000 pounds – over 1 million pounds in today‘s money!

While not as sophisticated as later electromechanical computers, the Bentham calculator paved the way for more advanced automation. So next time you instinctively reach for that calculator app on your phone, think of Moses and William Pullen! Their mechanical ingenuity presaged the digital world we now inhabit.

I hope you enjoyed learning about these unsung heroes of technology. Let me know if you have any other questions!

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