Life and works of W. T. Odhner
Vortrag, gehalten beim 2. Greifswalder Symposium zur Entwicklung der Rechentechnik 12. - 14. September 2003, erschienen in Girbardt/Schmidt 9-2003
Im Rechnerlexikon mit freundlicher Genehmigung des Verfassers
The life and works of W. T. Odhner, part I
Talk given by Timo Leipälä
at 2. Greifswalder Symposium zur Entwicklung der Rechentechnik,
12. - 14. September 2003
In spite of the importance of the Odhner
pinwheel calculating machine (arithmometer) spread in
hundreds of thousands of examples over the whole world, not very much is known about its inventor
Willgodt Theophil Odhner
(1845-1905) and the development process of the device. Probably the only
western reference using primary source material is the Odhner history book written by Henry Wassén
. Very useful complementary information can be obtained in the Russian books of Apokin &
Maistrov ,  and Maistrov & Petrenko  but these seem to be quite unknown in the western
world. The reference cited most often is the book of Martin
, but this is based on secondary
sources and contains lots of errors. Martin has been cited and interpreted so often that speculations
and even errors have gradually become accepted facts. The purpose of the present work is to shed new
light on the development history of Odhner’s calculating machines using primary sources. Even
though much material has been destroyed, several important letters of W. T. Odhner
and his brother
Sannfrid Odhner from St. Petersburg to their relatives in Sweden
have survived. Much new and
interesting printed material has also been found scattered in Russian and Swedish journals and
Keywords: Pinwheel calculating machines, Odhner arithmometer, W. T. Odhner
The state of calculating machine design by 1872 can be seen in a note appearing in The
Manufacturer and Builder . ”If a reliable calculating machine could be manufactured to retail at a
low price, say five dollars, with which addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division could be done,
it would no doubt find a ready-sale, as all go-ahead business men want such a time-saver. In all
wholesale establishments; in banks, government offices, commercial houses, publishing companies,
etc., an easily operated calculating machine, simple in construction, reliable in operation, not easily
deranged, and substantially made, would be a great desideratum. In looking over the models of
calculating machines in the Patent Office last month, we saw none that answered the above
description. Some of them were so complicated that it would take an engineer to run them, and a
watch-maker to keep them in order, while others were evidently designed by men who knew nothing,
practically, of the working of machinery; they having employed small wooden cams operating without
friction rollers on sliding rods which would always stick fast; or, in other cases, strings were used to
pull on wheels weighted on one side, and expected to return to their proper position by the action of
gravitation, but which they never did, owing to friction, for which the inventor had made no allowance.
Finally, every machine was out of order, and gave arithmetical results that would bankrupt the most
successful business man in two turns of the handle.”
Even though numerous calculating machines had been designed until 1872, only the
arithmometer of Charles Xavier Thomas patented 1820 had some practical importance. However, it
was very expensive and only 800 examples were made since the beginning of the serial production
around 1855 until the death of Thomas in 1870 . The production of Thomas arithmometers was
thus quite slow and real mass-production of calculators was yet to come. About 1871 the young
Swedish mechanic W. T. Odhner, who worked at Ludvig Nobel’s mechanical factory in St.
Petersburg Russia, had repaired a Thomas calculating machine and was then thinking about the
possibility of constructing a better calculating machine than the arithmometer of Thomas . Odhner
was not able to construct a calculator satisfying all the needs mentioned in article , but solved many
problems and was one of the first to mass-produce calculators.
The main sources on the life of Odhner are the books of Martin , Wassén , Apokin &
Maistrov ,  and Maistrov & Petrenko . Martin was not a scientist and his book contains
several errors. He seems to have had correspondence with Odhner or his children, and this must have
happened before 1910, because he is unaware of the death of Odhner’s son Georg in 1910. Wassén,
who wrote the anniversary book on Odhner, was an anthropologist, and had at his disposal material of
Odhner’s family in Sweden. He interviewed Odhner’s daughter-in-law Martha Odhner and foreman
Eduard Kuikka, who had been working for Odhner since 1900. It is a pity that Odhner’s son-in-law
engineer Karl Siewert (brother of Martha Odhner), who started his activities in Odhner company in
1905 and acted as its manager in 1912-1917, was at that time employed by Olivetti in Milano and
Wassén could not meet him. It is evident that Wassén did not have much time to write the book and
by that time he also had to do his military service . For some reason Wassén did not contact
Valentin Odhner, who worked at the Odhner factory in 1889-1913  and was still alive in Sweden.
He would have been absolutely the best expert on the Odhner calculating machine by that time. Thus
the book of Wassén is not as good as it could be, and many details remain to be investigated. The
earlier book of Apokin & Maistrov  presents some interesting original documents. Many new
sources are presented in its later version  and its chapter concerning Odhner with slight revisions
has even been translated to English . The third Russian reference  also contains material not
existing in other books. The reference  is very important, because it is based on discussions with
Odhner about his life. It seems to be much more reliable than the publicity material offered by Odhner
The present author has been able to study about 20 survived letters of Odhner to his relatives in
Sweden written between 1873-1905. Even though they consider mostly family relations, they contain
important details about calculating machines as well. Of specially interest are several letters from 1878
concerning the first Odhner patent.
There exists much contradictory information about the life of Odhner. In such cases I have tried
to found the most reliable alternative, but it is often difficult, because the publicity information of
Odhner company is often incorrect. This might be partially caused by the well known priority dispute
between Odhner and Baldwin about the invention of the pinwheel system.
Russian dates are given in the old style and corresponding dates of the modern gregorian
calender, if available, are put in parentheses. The original language of all letter citations is Swedish.
Special thanks are due to Lennart Odhner for letting me study the letters of Odhner. A. P
Romanov at the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg has been very helpful in supplying the
Russian material, although some of it has been found at the library of Helsinki University in Finland.
I have also obtained useful information from Peggy Kidwell at the Smithsonian Institute and
Katsunori Kadokura. Sergei Frolov has helped me in understanding old-fashioned Russian text.
The family of W. T. Odhner is described in , , ,  and there are quite a lot of
priests and scholars in the family. The theoretic talents of Odhner were probably inherited from his
father. Odhner’s grandfather Pehr Odhner (1790-1857) was a priest interested in botany but also in
practical issues like establishing schools and draining of seas in order to obtain more field to cultivate.
The oldest child of his first marriage was Theophil Dynamiel Odhner (1816-1863), the father of W.
T. Odhner. From his second marriage Pehr Odhner got a son Aron (1833-1914) who became a
successful businessman in Stockholm where he had a lamp store. Aron’s son Valentin Odhner
(1867-1956) became engineer and worked at the Odhner factory in St. Petersburg. Valentin Odhner
was thus half-cousin and later also son-in-law of W.T. Odhner. In addition to these Pehr Odhner had
two more sons, the vicar Herrbed Odhner (1829-1891) and sea captain Ernst Odhner (1843-1869).
Theophil Odhner ”was intended for the Ministry, and went through the college at Skara, but he
was a practical, mathematical and inventive genius, and had no desire for the ministry. After his
graduation he became a book-keeper, and afterwards a forester and surveyor. While surveying in
Wärmland he became acquainted with Fredrika Sofia Wall, the daughter of Gustaf Adolph Wall, a
land-owner near Karlstad. He was finally appointed amanuensis or chief clerk at the central surveying
office in Stockholm” . Theophil Odhner published a small lightning calculator booklet  to
help to understand new measures with special emphasis on practical calculations needed by sellers
and purchasers of grain. He ”suddenly died at the age of 47 [should be 46] leaving behind him a
poverty stricken widow and five young children, with a sixth to arrive three months later” . His
widow died eleven years later in 1874 in St. Petersburg while visiting her son W. T. Odhner.
Schotte  believes that Odhner’s mechanical talents came from her mother’s family and
Sundin  that they came from the families of both parents. The mother ”was a very intellectual and
poetical woman and struggled bravely to bring up her children in the midst of much poverty” .
Odhner’s uncle Arvid Wall was a wealthy man who owned iron-works, sawmills and foundries in
Sweden and Finland. He acquired modern machines for his enterprises and was among the early
users of telegraph and telephone. Odhner’s younger brothers Hjalmar (1846-1936) and Sannfrid
(1849-1895) were also technically talented. Hjalmar was lace-maker in Stockholm and was active to
his end in constructing and improving lace-making machines. ”He was honest and hardworking, but
never very successful in business” . Sannfrid worked as a mechanician in Scotland and St.
Petersburg but also ”wrote poetry continually” . He also had businesses of his own in St.
Petersburg  but they were not successful. The youngest brother Carl Theophil (1863-1918), who
was born after the death of his father, inherited the Swedenborgian theologic interest of his
grandfather. He emigrated to USA where he became leading figure of the Swedenborgian New
Church in Bryn Athyn. W. T. Odhner would have preferred a practical profession also for his
youngest brother instead of ”speculative” theology ”because Swedenborgian spirit hardly will feed
It has been claimed by Odhner company that the inventor John Ericsson, who received fame in
US civil war, was a relative of Odhner’s . The brother of Odhner’s grandfather Pehr Odhner was
married with the sister of Ericsson, which means that strictly speaking Ericsson is not a relative of
Odhner’s. On the other hand the mother of the industrialist Sven Wingqvist (1876-1953) who
invented spherical ball bearing in 1906 and founded the famous SKF ball bearing factory at Göteborg
in 1907, was Pehr Odhner’s granddaughter and thus Odhner’s cousin. Another grandchild of Pehr
Odhner and half-cousin of W. T. Odhner was captain Ernst Wallgren (1864-1950) who had several
patents, the most important of them a distance measuring instrument for artillery.
3. Willgodt Theophil Odhner
Willgodt Theophil Odhner was born in Westby, parish of Dalby in northern Wärmland province,
on August 10th, 1845. The home was poor, but the marriage of his parents was ”exceedingly happy”
. By the time of Odhner’s birth, his father was inspector of merchant Dickson’s forests and took
care of their timber sales. Besides of this he had rented a farm in the neighbourhood. In 1848 the
family moved to Karlstad but Theophil Odhner’s occupation there is unknown . Willgodt
attended the school of Karlstad for two years in 1854-1856. After that he moved to Stockholm to
work at the lamp store of his uncle Aron Odhner. Soon he changed to a more challenging position as
an employee of the instrument maker Georg Lyth. Lyth made maritime and mathematical instruments
for example planimeters. In 1859 also Theophil Odhner moved with the family to Stockholm where
he announced in the address calender to be a revisor  and in the following year 1860 he got the
post at the central surveying office. On September 3rd 1864 Willgodt Odhner matriculated at the
Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm to study practical mechanics and mechanical technology
of available three alternatives. His father had died in the preceding year but his uncle Aron Odhner
helped him and the rest of the family . Odhner was promoted to the third year’s class in 1866
, but never finished his studies , , . The course that he did not pass was the
construction of roads and bridges which was in that time compulsory even for mechanical engineers
. Maybe Odhner did not consider the subject interesting, maybe the reason was lack of money,
but certainly he did not need to build any roads and bridges during his later life. It is probable that he
left the school during spring 1867 . In the records of the congregation  Odhner calls himself
strictly as a ”mechanician” and later in Scandinavian address calenders of St. Petersburg , 
”mechanician and manufacturer” but in commercial brochures , and the one cited in  he
appeared as an engineer.
It is difficult to estimate the level of education at the Institute of Technology. At least Odhner
learned to make technical drawings which he needed later while preparing the construction drawings
and patent applications for his inventions. It is probable that Odhner learned the secrets of serial
production in practice.
The financial situation in Sweden was quite bad in 1868 and it was difficult to find a job. Thus
Odhner decided to try for his luck in St. Petersburg. He arrived to St. Petersburg by steamboat at the
age of 23 without knowing a word of Russian language and having only 8 roubles with him .
According to congregation records  this happened in 1868 even though many secondary sources
claim that it took place in 1869 , , . The church records are generally very reliable and we
can trust on them. Ships from Stockholm to St. Petersburg sailed via Turku, Helsinki and Vyborg.
The last ship left Turku heading for St. Petersburg on October 30th 1868 before the sea was frozen,
whereas the first ship in 1869 sailed on 28th April, so we can say that Odhner arrived in St.
Petersburg 1868 in August - October. From the harbour Odhner walked to the Swedish consulate
where secretary Damberg, who later became consul, arranged him a job at the small mechanical
workshop  of Macpherson  at a salary of 1.1 rubles a day . After some months Odhner
changed to work for his countryman Ludvig Nobel on the recently started rifle conversion project
. The time that Odhner worked for Ludvig Nobel was very important for Odhner’s later career
and that is why we dedicate a special chapter to Nobel’s factory.
Figure 1. W. T. Odhner at the age of 33 in 1878, © Tekniska Museet, Stockholm
The history of Ludvig Nobel’s mechanical factory has been described in the anniversary volume
, and more general books which also consider his other enterprises, have been written in Swedish
by his daughter Marta Nobel-Oleinikoff  and in English by R. Tolf . Ludvig Nobel (1831-
1888) was, as his better known younger brother Alfred Nobel, son of the inventor and factory owner
Immanuel Nobel, whose most important innovations were sea-mines. As a businessman he was not
successful and was bankrupt in Sweden 1833 and again in St. Petersburg 1859. Ludvig’s formal
education consisted of three years of school in Sweden before the rest of the family emigrated in 1842
to St. Petersburg where Immanuel Nobel had some years earlier fled his creditors. After that Ludvig
was instructed by tutors in engineering and languages in 1842-1850. He also had to work at his
father’s workshop founded 1842, which had grown to be a factory, moving from one position to
another learning how to run a business. The products included mines, cannons, wheels, steam engines
and metal window frames. In 1854-1855 there were as much as 1000 employees, but after the peace
of the Crimean war in 1856, the military orders ended and it was not possible to manage the rapidly
grown factory. Immanuel Nobel returned to Sweden in 1859 and the creditors turned over the
management of the factory to Ludvig in 1859, but sold it in 1862. Already in the same year Ludvig
first rented and soon bought the Isherwood repair shipyard, which also contained small brass and iron
foundries. It was situated on the Finnish or Vyborg side of Neva river near the Finnish railway
station. He expanded the plant gradually into a large mechanical factory and showed extremely good
technical and managerial skills. In 1862 the size of the factory lot was 3500 square meters, which was
enlarged to 13800 in 1872 and 20800 in 1882. The total volume of the buildings grew at the same
time from 9700 cubic meters first to 18200 and then 77400. The first great success of Ludvig Nobel
were cast-iron artillery shells, which replaced the German ones made by Krupp. 920000 shells were
produced until 1878. The factory also produced wheels, gun carriages and cannons. In 1867 the
Russian government decided to convert 100000 old-fashioned muzzleloader rifles to breechloaders
using the design of Sylvester Krnka and awarded this contract to Nobel. In 1872 he was also brought
into a rifle production project with a fifty-fifty basis with Peter Bilderling who had rented for 8 years
the state rifle factory at Izhevsk about 2000 kilometers east from St. Petersburg. Nobel factory
supplied the machine tools and engineering expertise to this old fashioned plant. The initial order was
200000 rifles of Berdan type, but many more were made.
Ludvig Nobel designed many machines and work processes to make the production efficient.
For example, he is said to have designed 75 different lathes for fabrication of breechloader rifle ,
but it is evident that he could not have done that alone. Altogether 1000 machines for the rifle
production were made at the St. Petersburg factory . It is quite probable that also Odhner and
many others participated in this development work, even though Odhner’s name is not mentioned in
the above sources. Anyway in 1874 Odhner writes that after a couple of weeks he is going to plan and
draw a new and grand rolling-mill, which will cost nearly 1000000 . At Nobel factory Odhner saw
how a modern well managed mechanical factory operates and this must have been of utmost
Ludvig Nobel also took care of the welfare of his workers in many ways; the work day was
shorter than it used to be in Russia, he built houses and recreation facilities for his employees, refused
to employ children and even had a profit sharing program. He was awarded several high medals by
the Russian state for his merits even though he remained a Swedish citizen all his life. Nobel also
wrote several papers in Russian for the journal of Imperial Russian Technical Society and took some
patents (hermetically sealed hubs of wheel axles with diminished lubrication demand ca. 1865,
continuous petroleum distillation 1882 together with Alfred Törnquist).
Cannons, carriages and rifles were assembled on the principle of interchangeable parts, a system
that demands extreme accuracy of the parts. This was difficult in Russia because the workers were
unskilled and the education and technical level was far below European standards. The emancipation
of serfs in 1861 provided lots of cheap labour, but it was totally unused to the requirements of the
factory life. Ludvig Nobel tried to hire as many Swedes and Finns as possible for supervisory
positions and to train the employees in order to fulfill the new work requirements. In 1868 or 1869
Nobel recruited W. T. Odhner and his first project consisted of participation in the recently started
rifle conversion project  and this also confirms that Odhner’s arrival to Russia took place in 1868.
Nobel did not appreciate diplomas and final examinations  and thus it did not matter that Odhner
had not completed his studies. He advanced soon to be a foreman and chief foreman .
Nobel’s first wife died in 1869 and he went to Sweden for some time. In the following year 1870
he married again and made a wedding trip of 9 months to southern Europe and north Africa.
Meanwhile the factory was taken care by Ludvig’s older brother Robert (1829-1896) who completed
the rifle conversion project. The climate of St. Petersburg was not good to Ludvig’s health and he
often traveled in Europe with his wife and some of the children. Even though the mechanical factory
of Ludvig was profitable, he earned still more money from the Izhevsk rifle factory, which made him a
rich man. From ca. 1872 Harald Berg Sr. acted as the manager of the St. Petersburg factory staying in
the position until 1886. The chief engineer specialized in artillery orders was Mihail Ya. Belyamin
with whom Nobel had been acquainted to at the Imperial Russian Technical Society and who had been
working for Nobel since the start in 1862.
In 1873 Ludvig sent Robert Nobel to Caucasus to buy walnut for riflestocks and he was given
25000 roubles for the purpose. On the way he heard stories about the oil rush in Baku and decided to
use Ludvig’s money to buy some parcel of oil-rich land and a small oil refinery instead of riflestocks.
After a trip back to St. Petersburg to explain to Ludvig how the ”walnut money” was used, Robert
returned to Baku where he concentrated on technological improvements of oil refinery. He built a new
kerosene refinery, again with the money of Ludvig, in 1875. Ludvig visited for the first time Caucasus
in the spring 1876 together with his oldest son Emanuel and became convinced about the future of oil
business. While Robert as a chemist concentrated on the refinery, Ludvig planned the logistics of the
distribution and storage of kerosene. Instead of horses, donkeys and camels the petroleum was then
transferred to the refinery by tubes ground in the earth in 1876. In the same year the first 300 barrels
of Nobel’s kerosene arrived at St. Petersburg. The first tanker ship in the world to carry the kerosene
from the refinery was also the idea of Ludvig. Because no Russian shipyard wanted to build this
tanker called Zoroaster, it was made in Motala, Sweden in 1877. Nobel also had difficulties with the
Russian railroads and had to build himself tanker carriages and locomotives to pull them. In a very
short time Russian kerosene of Nobel replaced the American alternative at the Russian market.
Kerosene brought much money, but demanded great investments. Ludvig owned alone the
factory at St. Petersburg, but the oil business was too much for one man. By 1876 the business had
already taken 450000 roubles of which 150000 had to be lent. After taking some loans from Ludvig’s
industrialist friends, the joint-stock company Nobel Brothers Petroleum Production Company (often
called Branobel) was finally formed in 1879. Its total capital at the beginning was 3000000 roubles,
1610000 of this by Ludvig Nobel, 115000 by Alfred Nobel, 100000 by Robert Nobel, 25000 by
Mihail Belyamin and the rest by 6 other persons.
Somewhere in St. Petersburg worked also a Swedish founder called Fredrik Skånberg, who had
first moved from Stockholm to Libau (nowadays called Liepaja in Latvia) where he married a local girl
and moved with the family to St. Petersburg in 1862. It can be thought that Skånberg was also
employed by Nobel, because Odhner fell in love with his daughter Alma (1853-1927). They were
married on the Boxing Day of 1871 at St. Katharina Swedish lutheran church and for that purpose
Odhner enrolled to the congregation a little bit earlier . Two years later Odhner writes ”when the
priest and musicians were paid at the wedding feast, my funds were so small that if my mother-in-law
during the return trip had not given to me 10 roubles, we could not have eaten bread with our coffee
on the following day” 
The preceding quotation is quite describing. One of the main issues in Odhner’s letters is money
or more precisely the lack of money. He had a bad conscience, because he could not assist in any way
his youngest brother Carl Theophil who was brought up by his brother Hjalmar and sister Anna .
Even though Odhner was a technical genius, he clearly was not a very economic character and had
difficulties in paying the expenses of his family and later also the salaries of his employees.
According to his letters the invention of a calculating machine was for Odhner a means of acquiring
money and becoming wealthy.
There are many legends ,  about how Odhner became interested in calculating machines
at a young age. However, calculating machines were so rare at that time that it was not even easy to
have any idea of the existence of a calculating machine. It is thus quite probable that a real interest
arose in St. Petersburg even though Odhner had seen his father working with figures. There are two
stories about that told by Odhner himself. According to material delivered by Odhner company for the
bilingual book describing the products exhibited at Paris World Exposition 1900 ”as a quite young
engineer Odhner had in 1871 an opportunity to repair a Thomas calculating machine and then became
convinced that it is possible to solve the problem of mechanical calculation by a simpler and more
appropriate way” . Year 1871 is probably imprecise because other dates in the same source are
false, but otherwise the story appears to be trustworthy. The other story appears in the speech that
Odhner gave about his improved calculator at the meeting of Deutscher Polytechnischen Verein on
September 27th 1890 . According to the speech in 1875 Odhner had read an article about Thomas
arithmometer in Dinglers Polytechnisches Journal and thought it might be possible to construct a
simpler calculating machine. The article was probably ”Die Thomasche Rechenmaschine” of F.
Reuleaux that appeared in Volume 165 p. 334-362. The two stories could be combined so that
Odhner had to repair a Thomas arithmometer between 1871-1874 and for that purpose he read the
article about it. At the meeting of a learned society Odhner wanted perhaps to stress his theoretical
knowledge and did not talk about the repair. If the arithmometer did not belong to Nobel, he must
have arranged the repair through his friends in the Imperial Russian Technical Society.
Ludvig Nobel knew several languages and at later stages of his life subscribed to several foreign
trade magazines from which his secretary chose the most interesting articles for him to read  and
it is possible that his staff also had a possibility to study them. In any way, Odhner seems to have
been unaware of Baldwin’s calculator because it was patented in February 1875  when Odhner
was already working on his calculator project. It also took time before the patent was printed and
information spread to Russia. If Odhner knew about Baldwin’s invention, why did he make in his
patent application of 1978 several claims that were rejected because they were earlier invented by
Baldwin . Odhner may have known about the pinwheel of David Wertheimber patented 1843 and
resembling very much Odhner’s pinwheel .
Franz Trinks who later bought the licence to produce calculating machines of Odhner’s revised
1889 design suspects that Odhner may have used the calculating machine of Israel Staffel in his
design. ”Die [Odhner] Maschine, von der nur ein Stück gebaut wurde, ist der obengenannten
Universal-Rechenmaschine von Staffel in mancher Beziehung so ähnlich, dass die Annahme naheliegt,
Odhner habe sie gekannt und sie beim Bau seiner Maschine zum Vorbild genommen” . Trinks
must have held some correspondence with Odhner, but evidently he never asked about the details of
the development history of the arithmometer.
Staffel was a watchmaker living in Warsaw, Poland being then a part of the Russian empire.
Staffel’s calculating machine was finished in 1845 after a work of ten years taking all the free time
and a great part of his material resources . It was presented at the expositions of Warsaw in 1845
and London in 1851 and it was awarded silver medal in both of them. The jury in London wrote in
their report of 1852 that ”the best machine of this kind exhibited is that of Staffel”  even though
the arithmometer of Thomas was also exhibited. Staffel also presented his calculating machine to
Russian Academy of Science in 1846. V. Ya. Bunyakovski and B. S. Jacobi studied the device and
praised it in their statement . They remarked that the calculator consisted of several identical
simple parts, which could be serially produced by machines, so that the price of the the machine could
be lowered. It would be very useful for institutions where long and precise calculations consisting
mostly of multiplications and divisions had to be performed. The arithmometer of Thomas is not
mentioned in the statement and it is evident that the referees did not know it. Staffel received a 1500
rouble state award for his invention, but there exists no information that it was patented. Evidently
Staffel invented his calculating machine at a time when there still was no demand for them.
At the beginning of 1876 Staffel wanted to deposit his calculating machine at Russian Academy
of Science in St. Petersburg. According to Staffel his calculating machine presents the first attempt to
solve exactly by mechanical ways the arithmetical operations and could serve as a model for
constructors of similar machines. He also wished that his invention would not be forgotten and the
honour of inventing the first calculating machine would not be seized by any foreigner. The device
was sent from Warsaw on January 13th 1876 and on February 9th the Academy of Science sent a
letter thanking about the donation and told that the device was placed in the physical cabinet, so that it
would be easily available .
As we shall see, Odhner’s first calculator prototype was already finished at that time, but he may
have seen and studied the printed description of Staffel’s machine, which was in 1846 available both
in Russian and in Polish , and used it in his work. Unfortunately this document has not been
found. According to , relying on information supplied by London Times, in 1851 Staffel’s
calculating machine was placed in the Russian court, probably after the London Exposition. This must
also have made Staffel’s invention more known at St. Petersburg.
Figure 2. Staffel’s calculating machine
Staffel’s calculator had a capacity of 13 digits and it also could draw square roots in addition to the
usual arithmetical operations of addition, subtraction and division. It is interesting that this capacity
later became a standard in pinwheel calculating machines of Odhner type. A picture of Staffel’s
calculator is presented as figure 2 to compare it with early versions of Odhner’s arithmometer given in
figures 35 and 36 of . Trinks describes the calculator ”Verlegbare Einstellscheiben waren auf
einer gemeinschaftlichen Achse nebeneinander angeordnet. Die eingestellten Ziffern erschienen
jeweils hinter Schauöffnungen an den Einstellrädern in einer geraden Linie. Ebenso verhielt es sich
auch bezüglich der Ziffern im festen Produkten- und Umdrehungszählwerk. Für positive bzw.
negative Rechnungsarten galt wie beim Antrieb der Leibniz-Maschine dementsprechend
entgegengesetzte Drehrichtung der Kurbel. Beim Überschreiten der Leistungsgrenze ertönte ein
We could also pose the question: Did Baldwin know about Staffel’s calculator and did he use
Staffel’s ideas in his calculator. Besides the sources cited above, there must have been much more
information about it in different magazines and and books concerning London Exposition.
The first hint in the survived letters of Odhner which may refer to calculating machines, appears
in his letter to his sister Anna dated on October 27 (November 8) 1874. He writes that he had thought
out a means by which he hopes to be able to lighten the [financial] troubles of all or at least some of his sisters and brothers, but will not yet tell more about it , see figure 3. An indirect way of
deducing the starting time of Odhner’s calculator project is, however, to subtract the project duration
time of 15 years, which Odhner himself reported in the first edition of his calculator instructions ,
from the finishing date. This duration has also been reported in . Unfortunately the latter time is
not known exactly but the first instructions were approved by Russian censors on May 16th 1890 and
then the revised model of the calculator must have been ready. Odhner himself told moreover  at
the meeting of Deutscher Polytechnischen Verein on March 30th 1889 that he still had some work to
do to make his calculator perfect. Thus we can say that the calculator was completed at the second half
of 1889 and by simple subtraction we can state that Odhner began his calculating machine
construction in 1874. This coincides well with the letter cited above. It is interesting to note that the
researchers of the Polytechnic Museum of Moscow also claim that Odhner started his calculator
construction in 1874  but their arguments are not known. The article  which appeared at the
very end of 1903 claims that Odhner started his calculator construction 30 years ago, but we can think
that this figure had been rounded upwards.
Figure 3. The first of the four pages of letter  to Anna Åhlin.
When Odhner had written the
sheets, he usually continued on margins in reversed order. Here the end of the letter with signature can
be seen on the left margin. The referred part of the letter can be seen to the right of the signature.
It was not very easy to design a calculator at one’s scant spare time. ”To work from 7 in the
evening to 8 in the morning [should evidently be from 7 in the morning to 8 in the evening] is not very
nice for a newly wed poor man having a young and beautiful wife” . Twelve or fourteen hours a
day was a common workday in Russia but Nobel reduced it to 10.5 hours  but maybe somewhat
later. Odhner’s first child Alexander was born 1873. His mother had come to St. Petersburg to see
the birth of her first grandchild and died there in 1874. The progress of Odhner’s efforts was
reported in the following article that appeared in St. Petersburger Zeitung on wednesday 10 (22)
”[Eine neue Rechenmaschine.] Wir hatten Gelegenheit, eine Rechenmaschine ganz neuer
Konstruktion kennen zu lernen und uns von ihrer praktischen Anwendbarkeit zu überzeugen. Die uns
von ihrem Erfinder vorgestellte Maschine ist ein elegant gearbeitetes Kästchen von dem Umfang eines
kleinen Cigarrenkistchens. Auf den Mechanismus können wir nicht wohl eingehen, wir dürfen aber
konstatiren, dass in unserer Gegenwart Exempel aus allen vier Species mit grosser Schnelligkeit und
Genauigkeit ausgeführt wurden. Der Erfinder ist jetzt mit Herstellung einer Maschine beschäftigt, die
alle möglichen Berechnungen in den Grenzen von 999,999,999 auszufuhren im Stande sein wird. Mit
diesen wenigen Worten bezwecken wir lediglich, Fachmänner auf diese interessante Erfindung
aufmerksam zu machen und die weitere Prufung derselben anzuregen. Der Erfinder ist ein junger
Schwede Namens Willgodt Odhner, der in der Fabrik von Rosenkranz auf der Wyborger Seite, Quai
der Grossen Newa Nr. 25, als Techniker beschäftigt ist.” 
According to the researchers of Moscow Polytechnic Museum, Odhner’s first calculating
machine was finished at the end of 1875  and it must then have been just the device described in
the preceding article. The arguments for that statement are again unknown.
Odhner’s employment at Rosenkranz factory must have been of short duration and unimportant,
because it is not mentioned in article  and obituaries , . Rosenkranz produced copper and
brass tubes and sheets and some products made of these. This product palette is not very challenging
and it is possible that Odhner was temporarily employed by E. Rosenkrantz to install the rolling mill
mentioned above or some other machine produced by Nobel. It is of course possible that he wanted to
learn some special procedure that was not possible at the Nobel factory. Soon after the publishing of
the article  Odhner was again employed by Nobel.
Even though explicitly not mentioned, it is evident that the computing capacity of the calculator
described in the article was smaller than the capacity 9 of the forthcoming model. As Odhner used to
increase the capacity at each stage by 1 (1876: 9, 1877: 10, 1889: 11), we could guess that this 1875
arithmometer prototype calculated with 8 digit precision. Because of the comparison to a cigar box,
one may also think that the device was housed in a rectangular wooden (caviar?) box. The
forthcoming model is clearly the one which Odhner calls his first calculating machine when he writes
to his sister Anna the well known message , published in English in  and in German in .
”...aber das ständige und mühsame Arbeiten an meiner Maschine hat meine Zeit und meine
Gedanken so in Anspruch genommen, dass ich keine Neigung verspürte, irgendetwas anderes
anzufangen. Diese Sorgen sind jetzt jedoch vorüber, den meine erste Maschine ist fertig und in jeder
Hinsicht gelungen. Es war meine Absicht, sie zur Physikalischen Ausstellung nach London zu
schicken, aber ich habe es mir anders überlegt; denn ich hoffe, dass ich die Maschine weiter
verbessern und noch bequemer machen kann, und ich möchte sie nicht der Öffentlichkeit verstellen,
bevor sie ein Höchstmass an Perfektion erreicht hat; zweitens glaube ich nicht, dass ich auch nur den geringsten Nutzen von ihrer Ausstellung hätte, wenn ich nicht gleichzeitig einige hundert Maschinen
fertig zum Verkauf hätte; drittens wäre es unklug, sie zu zeigen bevor die Idee patentiert ist. Ich arbeite
jetzt an einer neuen und in vieler Hinsicht verbesserten Maschine, die hoffentlich in einigen Wochen
fertig ist und mit der dann das Geschäft hoffentlich anfangen wird.” 
Odhner must have been quite excited when he wrote this message. It appears in the beginning of
the letter, whereas he usually wrote about his calculators somewhere near the end. When one looks at
the figure 35 of Martin  and compares it with the newspaper article and the letter cited, there is
only one possible conclusion confirming the theory of Kadokura . The ”first” arithmometer with
calculating capacity 9, which Martin claims to stem from the year 1874, is the one that was finished in
1876 and depicted in the newspaper article  and the letter . There are several explanations for
the errors of Martin. He had some communication with the Odhner family around 1904 , but then
Odhner himself was old and sick, so Martin probably corresponded with Odhner’s sons or son-inlaw
Valentin Odhner. It is even possible that he met Georg Odhner, who then studied electrical
engineering in Berlin. Both Martin and members of the Odhner family often give non-correct
information and in addition to that there might have been misunderstandings during the
communication because the years 1874 and 1876 given by Martin seem to be the starting times of the
Odhner was a perfectionist striving for the best possible design and that is probably the reason,
why Odhner called the 1876 model as his first calculator and did not count the prototype of the
autumn 1875. It could have also been based too much on the ideas of Staffel or somebody else, and
therefore Odhner could not call it his machine. It is also possible that Odhner used the pinwheels or some other parts of the 1875 prototype for the 1876 calculator so that the prototype did not exist any more.
Odhner’s first machine was made by him personally during his spare time, but he tried to
convince Nobel to start the production of the calculator. In a letter dated in June 1876 he writes: ”My machine is so extraordinarily successful and good that it is not easy to imagine else than it becoming a
very big business. After a month Mr. Nobel returns home, then the affair will be decided, and because
I am almost sure that his intention is to begin the production at once on a large scale, so I believe in a
couple of months to be able to get Victor a somewhat more promising job” . His brother
Sannfrid Victor Petrus was then living in Scotland, but arrived in 1877 to St. Petersburg with his
family. After some time Odhner managed to arrange a job at the Nobel factory also for his brother.
The trip of Nobel mentioned in the letter was this time to Sweden , soon after the
aforementioned visit to Caucasus, where he got acquainted with the oil business. After his return
Nobel made a deal with Odhner for producing 14 calculating machines. The capacity of these was 10
instead of 9 of the ”first” calculator. Odhner’s brother-in-law Arvid Åhlin was then a sea-captain and
happened to have a voyage to St. Petersburg, from where he wrote on May 30th 1877: ”About the
machine. It is a really ingenuous invention, and in my conviction it has a great future. Willgott has the
one at home that he first made by hand, which therefore is not so fine and neat-looking as those he is
now making at the factory, but still it is beyond my expectations... He is now making 14 machines
which are nearly finished, and it is his intention to send them out in the world to be tested and
inspected and by means of the newspapers to make the machine known to the world. Nobel has given
Willgott the use of a small portion of the factory to work with his machine. Nobel and Willgott have
made an agreement that Nobel shall carry all costs to see the business started and until then he is paying Willgott a salary on the condition that when the business has started they shall share for better
or worse and take one-half of the profits each... The reason why the going has been so slow at first is
that in order to make machines profitably on a large scale, Willgott has had to design and make
special machines for manufacturing each part. I was at the factory with him for four hours, and you
can well imagine I had not a little pleasure out of seeing everything. I have reserved one machine for
myself and also the agency for foreign sales”  [13, partially] These calculators finished at the
later half of 1877 are machines that Martin [19, figure 36] claims to be from the year 1876. In the
picture of Martin one can with some difficulty even read the cyrillic text ”Arifmometr sistemy W.T.
Odhner” behind the setting levers and ”Mehan. zavod Nobel” on the left. The text can be seen better
in a Russian picture of figure 4.
Figure 4. 1877 model of Odhner arithmometer made at the Nobel factory.
This series of 14 calculators is called in the following 1877 model. Obviously Odhner worked
full time on the calculators and had his brother Sannfrid and maybe some others to assist in his work.
It is interesting that Åhlin does not write anything about the 1875 prototype and it is not sure that it
existed any more.
One month earlier in April 1877 Odhner himself wrote: ”Life is a steady fight against
difficulties, and when one is overcome the other arrives, this experience I have got to know specially
during the work with my machine. A thousand of difficulties I have conquered, and am now so far that
I have my work finished and hoped to obtain a reward for my toil. However, now comes the inhuman
war, everybody has time and interest only for those shocking affairs, and probably I must postpone
the release of my invention until more quiet times arrive” . This is the only letter where Odhner’s
address is Nobel factory i.e. Odhner lived at an apartment of Nobel in the backyard of the factory.
This is also the only survived letter with Nobel’s letterhead.
One of these difficulties was in the contacts with the managers of the factory. Even though
Odhner evidently came well along with Nobel, Nobel had many other businesses and also traveled
much so that the mechanical factory was lead by others. The relations of Odhner with the directors of
the factory were quite bad.The project of making 14 calculators and some machines for manufacturing
them was very challenging and the directors surely would have liked to use these resources in another
way. They thought the calculator project took too much time . In the autumn 1877 (five weeks
before the winter interrupted the building of a bridge where Odhner’s brother Sannfrid got a new job)
the situation had gone so far that Odhner and even Sannfrid were forbidden to arrive to the factory
territory because the relations of Odhner with the director and most of the foremen were unfriendly
. It is possible that all of the calculators were not finished then, because at least one of them does
not have the stamp of Ludvig Nobel on it . By that time Nobel was for a long time traveling in
Europe and spent christmas 1877 in Wien . Thus Odhner was unemployed and had to make debt
to finance his living. At this time he had two children to take care of, Alexander born 1873 and Alma
(later married to Valentin Odhner) born in 1877. Earlier in 1877, Emilia the second child of Odhner
died at the age of two years.
The war cited above was the 1877-1878 conflict between Turkey and Russia and this of course
meant more military orders for the Nobel factory. Probably Nobel also began to think that the
business potential of the calculators was not too good. In a letter dated in March 1878 Odhner writes
”As you of my last letter heard, I had written to Mr. Nobel to hear whether he, to continue the
business with my machines would do some further sacrifices or not. His answer to this was, because
of a number of other duties and enterprises, for which he in spite of his bad health is responsible, no.
Because my machine according to my and almost every other person’s opinion is remarkably good
and practical, and has a future ahead of it, so I could not leave the affair here but have during 2 months
time made a fuss and mess to get some businessman to be associated with the affair. This has been far
from easy because partly here exists no businessmen that have any idea of the value of an invention of
public utility, partly one is afraid of showing too much of a thing before it is patented, and partly
because of the war and weak conjunctures here is not even a smallest desire for speculation. After
negotiating a couple of months with a few persons, and becoming quite tired, so to get rid of the affair
at once and to be able to think about a new job, I have given the affair to a wealthy and as i believe
particularly energetic local businessman a certain Königsberger, on the condition that he takes the
patents and pays all expenses and afterwards divides with me the future profits. However, it was not possible for me to get anything in cash. This would have been so welcome because I now am
unemployed” . The purpose of Karl Königsberger as a merchant was thus not to produce
anything but to sell the invention as such. The first selling efforts after patenting the invention were
directed to United States, but these were not successful. A representive of Königsberger succeeded in
selling the licence to German Grimme, Natalis & Co to produce Odhner calculators for Germany,
Belgium and Switzerland, but that did not happen until 1892.
Even though Nobel did not want to continue the production of calculating machines, he promised
Odhner a special project at his factory but when he traveled away from St. Petersburg, his ”masters”
hired another Swede to do that. Odhner believed though that with patience he would get a better job
and hoped every day to obtain one . That job was offered at the expedition for producing state
papers where Odhner started on the 1st of May 1878  and staid for the following 14 years .
As a businessman Nobel knew that all projects are not profitable. He was for example a partner
in Lupikko iron mine by lake Ladoga near St. Petersburg which brought considerable losses  but
his investments on Odhner’s calculator were not so great. It is evident that Odhner never paid
anything to Nobel, but maybe Nobel got some of the 14 arithmometers, which he surely needed in his
business. It is known that in December 1891 Nobel oil company (Branobel) already had 10 Odhner
arithmometers  which was quite much at that time. Some of them might have been of the 1877 type.
At the beginning of 1878 Odhner left one of his calculators to be refereed by the Imperial
Russian Technical Society. He might have hoped to receive a state prize like the earlier Russian (in
fact Polish but Poland belonged to the Russian empire) calculator inventors Slonimsky and Staffel
had got. The minutes of the meeting of the second section of the society on 30th January 1878 
tell that Odhner presented there his calculator. It was decided that V. L Kirpichev and Mihail Ya.
Belyamin should give a testimonial of the calculator and also compare it to other existing calculating
machines. The referee report of Kirpichev  appeared in the May number of the notes of the
society. Maybe Belyamin as a chief engineer of the Nobel factory did not want to participate in the
According to this interesting statement the same four basic arithmetic operations as with the
Thomas arithmometer can be performed, even though the mechanism is different. Odhner
arithmometer is much simpler with less different parts so that the price of Odhner’s device will be
much lower, the price being one of the reasons of the scarcity of calculating machines. Odhner’s
device, with the same capacity than the Thomas arithmometer, also demands much less space. The
arithmometer is only the first prototype and it can certainly be improved, even though it is
praiseworthy in its present form. One must also note that some of the defects of the device are caused
by the fact that until now the machine has been made manually without any special machines for
producing different parts. A final statement on all the details of Odhner’s device can be given only
after a long-time use, but at least following remarks can be made.
The durability of the revolution register clearing crank knob and the hook that moves the carriage
is not sure.
Sometimes the dial wheels of either the result register or the revolution register (counter) stop
halfway between two values and it is impossible to know which of the two digits partially showing in the window is correct. The same defect appears also in Thomas arithmometer, but there you can jerk
the device slightly to obtain a correct outcome in the window. This does not work in Odhner’s
machine, but the dial wheel trigger mechanism could be be changed to correct this defect.
The turning of the crank is rather hard. To start the motion it may be necessary to use so much
power that one must hold the device with the other hand to prevent it moving on the table. The greatest
power is needed when all the input values are set to nine. In the Thomas machine the effort is also
greatest when all the input values are nine, but even then it requires much less effort than the device of
The size of the greatest possible multiplicand is 8 and the greatest possible multiplier 7, but the
product can be calculated only with 10 numbers instead of the possible 15. This defect restricts
remarkably the use of the device, but can no doubt be corrected. The tens carry operation is restricted
so that only the 5 rightmost numbers of the product register are correct. By small modifications which
do not increase the size of the device this defect could be corrected.
In multiplication and division the crank is often turned too many times. To correct it, the crank
has to be turned once more but in the opposite direction. Then the value of the result register is
corrected, but the value of the revolution register shows a defective value of two revolutions from the
correct value. This defect which does not appear in the Thomas machine should be corrected so that
the reverse turn corrects both the value of the result register and the revolution register.
In some cases the clearing of the revolution register is quite difficult. If the values of all the seven
digits are equal, the small size of the clearing crank makes the clearing heavy. The defect could be
corrected by introducing clearing by a spring analogous to one used in the Thomas arithmometer.
The setting levers are so small that the design could be modified so that the fingers of the
operator would not get tired so easily. This might be important during long calculations.
Odhner certainly studied this statement very carefully and tried to correct the defects in the
improved version of his arithmometer. It is interesting that Kirpichev must have been familiar with the
Thomas arithmometer, also in practice.
There exist some information about long-time use of two Odhner 1877 calculators in the office
of the United States government actuary in spite of their deficiencies . One of the arithmometers,
now belonging to the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, was used first by the actuary Ezekiel Brown Elliott (1823-1888). After his death, it was purchased by Mrs S. Wollard, an assistant actuary.
This machine has number 4 stamped in several places, so it is evidently the serial number of this
calculator. The second arithmometer (evidently Nr. 9) was used by Joseph McCoy (1863-1931), who
began working with Elliott in 1887 and succeeded him in as actuary in 1889. Thus it is evident that
even the calculators of Odhner’s first series were useful in spite of the defects noted by Kirpichev.
Other modestly priced calculating devices were not available by that time and the actuaries had to buy
the arithmometers by themselves. The history of Odhner arithmometer Nr. 11  belonging to the
Polytechnic Museum in Moscow is not known to the author. The photos of all these three
arithmometers can be viewed at http://mywebpages.comcast.net/wtodhner/calcs.html
. It is interesting
to see that the whole clearing crank is missing of the arithmometer in Moscow, though Kirpichev was
only suspecting the strength of the knob.
Werner Lange has thoroughly analyzed the differences of the designs of Odhner and Baldwin
 and notes that the system of Odhner, where the result register is moving and the input wheels are
fixed, is mechanically better. Staffel’s calculator is in this respect similar to the Baldwin calculator, but
the input wheels are much smaller.
The efficiency of Königsberger was quite evident. In the same letter of March (April) 1878,
where Odhner writes about his selection, Odhner also notes that ”my machine has already arrived to
America and I wait to hear very soon what the Americans think about it” . This arithmometer
must have been the patent model sent first to patent attorneys. The machine was left in the US patent office on June 27th 1878 . The patent application was filed a little later on July 13th 1878 and it contains 16 claims. The signature has been written by Odhner himself, but otherwise the paper has
been written in a completely different handwriting, so Odhner must have signed a blank paper and
sent it with the patent model to USA. On August 1st the patent office sent to the attorneys a letter
stating that ”the 1st - 2nd - 3rd - 4th - 5th - 6th - 7th - 8th and 14th claims are found to be anticipated
in patent of F. S: Baldwin Febr 2/75 No Patent:US159244
, the 16th claim appears to be substantially met in the
same patent in view of the fact that spring arms are shown in the patent A. Johnson Dec 22/68 No
. The above claims are rejected.”  By that time the telegraph connection to St. Petersburg
was already functioning, but experienced attorneys probably did not need any help in making the
modifications needed. Already on August 14th they filed a modified application  where 8 first
claims were changed into 4 claims and claims 9-13 and 15 enumerated as claims 5 - 10. The signature
of Odhner has been written by the same handwriting as the application and not by Odhner himself.
The patent No. Patent:US209416
was granted on October 29th 1878 and the whole process took thus only 3.5
months. If the quality of calculator patent models was in 1878 still as poor as it was in 1872 , the fast treatment of Odhner’s patent application can be understood.
Odhner wrote to his brother ”from America I have got information that my machine has been
patented - remains thus only to see if somebody will give some dollars for it - and to introduce it -
which is most difficult of all” . A little later he wrote ”I have now in America obtained the patent
for my machine and Mr. Königsberger (my companion in the affair) has commissioned a business
partner living in America to try to sell it. The said gentleman, a big and energetic businessman called
Straus - has visited Europe and seen the machine here - he was very excited about my machine and
thought that he in America, where he already has returned will do something of the affair, and
Königsberger encouraged by this has now taken patents in all European countries. I have prepared a
very much simplified drawing of the machine which together with 2 machines has been sent to
America. In a word, the affair is going ahead at full steam - and in energetic and good hands - so we
can hope for the best” . If Straus succeeded in selling these two calculators and possibly some
more, the amount obtained by Odhner certainly was not very great.
The patent process was so fast and easy that Königsberger decided to apply for the patent in
other countries as well and it was granted ”in all countries” , . The German patent was filed
on November 19th  and granted as No. 7393 of 1878. The corresponding Swedish patent is No.
123 of 1879 . The Russian patent No. 148/1879 for three years was filed on February 14th 1979
and granted December 31st 1879. It was published in .
Figure 5. The patent drawings of Odhner’s 1879 Russian patent.
Even though Odhner arithmometer was patented, it was not an easy task to sell the licence to produce
it. ”Da sich aber keine Käufer für die Patente fanden, schlief die Sache ganz ein, bis er [Odhner] in
März 1889 durch einen im Pet[ersburger] Pol[ytechnischer] Verein gehaltenen Vortrag wieder auf
den alten Gedanken gebracht wurde, den er auch unter wesentlichen Veränderungen und
Verbesserungen nicht ohne erhebliche Opfer an Zeit und Geld durchführte” .
-  Adress Lista utgifven af Skandinaviska Wälgörenhets Föreningen i St. Petersburg. Maj 1889, 1889
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-  Calculating Machine, The Manufacturer and Builder, Vol. 11, 1872, p. 264
-  Discussion after A. Hasselblatts speech ”Ueber Methoden und mechanische Hülfsmittel zum Erleichtern des Rechnens”, Protocolle des St. Petersburger Polytechnischen Vereins, Nr. 3, 1889, p. 89
-  Eine neue Rechenmaschine, St. Petersburger Zeitung, 10 (22) September 1875, in Swedish: Ny räknemaskin, Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfarts-Tidning, 27 October 1875
-  En landsmans verksamhet i Ryssland, Affärsvärlden, Nr. 50-51, 1903, p. 1562-1564
-  Indebetou Govert & Hylander Erik (eds.): Svenska teknologföreningen 1861-1936. Biografier del I: födelseåren 1811-1884, 1937
-  Kadokura Katsunori: Personal communication
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-  Kidwell Peggy: Personal communication
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-  http://www.bilp.uw.edu.pl/ti/1863/foto/n207.htm : Machina rachunkowa p. Izraela Abrahama Staffel z Warszawy, Tygodnik illustrowany, Nr. 192, 1863
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-  Mittheilung des Herrn W. Odhner über die von ihm erfundene Rechenmaschine ”Arithmometer” (Auszug), Protocolle des St. Petersburger Polytechnischen Vereins, Nr. 5, 1890, p. 100-103
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-  Odhner Sannfrid: Letter to sisters and brothers, August 30th (September 11th) 1878
-  Odhner T[heophil] D[ynamiel]: Genwäg till uträkning af warupriser m. m. efter Nya Mått- och wigt-indelningen samt Jemförelse-Tabeller, oumbärliga för spanmåls-köpare och säljare, 1863, 32 p.
-  Odhner Willgodt Theophil: Letter to Arvid Åhlin, September 1st (13th) 1873
-  Odhner Willgodt Theophil: Letter to Anna Odhner, later Åhlin, October 27th (November 8th) 1874
-  Odhner Willgodt Theophil: Letter to Anna Odhner, later Åhlin, May 21st (June 3rd) 1876
-  Odhner Willgodt Theophil: Letter to Anna & Arvid Åhlin, June 22nd (July 4th) 1876
-  Odhner Willgodt Theophil: Letter to Anna Åhlin, April 6th (18th) 1877
-  Odhner Willgodt Theophil: Letter to Hjalmar Odhner, March 27th (April 8th) 1878
-  Odhner Willgodt Theophil: Letter to Hjalmar Odhner, October 1st (12th) 1878
-  Odhner Willgodt Theophil: Letter to Anna Åhlin, November 24th (December 6th) 1878
-  Odhner Willgodt Theophil: Letter to Anna Åhlin, July 27th 1881
-  Patent 209416 acts, National Archives of United States
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-  Schotte Gösta: Berättelsen om Willgodt Theophil Odhner från Dalby och hans släkt, Program och Festskrift vid avtäckandet av minnestenen efter Dalbysonen Willgodt Theophil Odhner vid Dalby Hembygdsgård Söndagen den 1 september 1968, 1968, p. 3-9
-  Segerstedt Bengt: Odhners historia: släkt- och personhistoriska anteckningar om Jonas Persson Odhner och hans förfäder med ett inledande avsnitt om den bygd där fäderna levde och där han själv föddes och senare verkade som präst, 1971, 66 pp, second edition: Odhners historia: en skildring om en släkt och dess hembygd, 1987, 252 p.
-  Sundin Bengt: Släkten Odhner, 1990, 172 p.
-  Tolf Robert W.: The Russian Rockefellers. The Saga of the Nobel family and the Russian Oil Industry, Hoover Institution Publication 158, 1976, 269 p., in Swedish with some comments of Ludvig Nobel’s grandson Nils Oleinikoff: Tre generationer Nobel i Ryssland, 1977, 312 p.
-  Trinks F.: Die neue Rechenmaschine Brunsviga, Zeitschrift des Vereines Deutscher Ingenieure, Vol. XXXVI, 1892, p. 1522-1523
-  Trinks F.: Geschichtliche Daten aus der Entwicklung der Rechenmaschine von Pascal bis zur Nova-Brunsviga, Braunschweiger GNC Monatsschrift, 1926, p. 249-276
-  Usine mécanique et fonderie de cuivre W. T. Odhner / Mekhanicheskii i medno-liteinyi zavod V. T. Odner, La Russie à l’exposition universelle de Paris en 1900 / Rossiya na vsemirnoi vystavke v Parizhe v 1900 g., Volume 2, 1900, p. 33-34
-  W. Th. Odhner †, St. Petersburger Zeitung, 3 (17) September 1905, see Appendix 1
-  Wassén Henry: Letter to Arvid Åhlin Jr., November 30th 1944
-  Wassén Henry: Odhners historia. Illustrerad krönika över en maskin att räkna med. Ett apråpå till 100-årsminnet av W. T. Odhners födelse 1845, 1945, 71 p., English translation with reduced amount of pictures: An Illustrated Chronicle of ”a Machine to count on”. In Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of W. T. Odhner’s Birth in 1845, 1951, 67 p.
-  Wilgodt Theophil Odhner, St. Petersburger Herold, 4 (18) September 1905, see Appendix 2
-  Apokin I. A. & Maistrov L. E.: Razvitie vychislitel’nykh mashin, 1974, 398 p.
-  Apokin I. A. & Maistrov L. E.: Istoriya vychislitel’noi tekhniki ot prosteishikh schetnykh prisposoblenii do slozhnykh releinykh sistem, 1990, 262 p.
-  Zhurnal zasedaniya gg. nepremennykh chlenov 2-go otdela, 30 yanvarya 1878 goda, Zapiski imperatorskago russkago tekhnicheskago obshestva i svod privilegii, Vol 12, Nr. 2, 1878, p. 36-38
-  Kirpichev V. L.: Otzyv ob ”arifmometre” g. Odnera, Zapiski imperatorskago russkago tekhnicheskago obshestva i svod privilegii, Vol 12, Nr. 5, 1878, p. 128-130
-  Kol’man |. & Radovskii M. I.: Iz istorii vychislitel’nykh ustroistv po materialam arkhiva AN SSSR, Istoriko-matematicheskie issledovaniya 14, 1961, p. 551-586
-  Maistrov L. E. & Petrenko O. L.: Pribory i instrumenty istoricheskogo znacheniya. Vychislitel’nye mashiny, 1981, 157 p.
-  Mekhanicheskii zavod Lyudvig Nobel 1862-1912, 1912, 112 p.
-  Privilegiya 148, vydannaya iz Departementa Torgovli i Manufaktur v 1879 g. torgovomu domu pod firmoyu ”Kenigsberg i K”, na novago ustroistva schetnuyu mashinku, Zapiski imperatorskago russkago tekhnicheskago obshestva i svod privilegii Vol 15, Nr. 1, 1881
W. Th. Odhner †. Am 2 September ist nach schwerem langem Leiden ein Mann aus dem Leben
geschieden, ein Mann der Arbeit, der sich im Gedächtnis derjenigen, die mit ihm gearbeitet haben, ein
dauerndes Andenken bewahren wird. Wilgodt Theophil Odhner ist im Jahre 1845 in Karlstad
(Schweden) geboren, und kam nach Absolvierung als Ingenieur, fast mittellos nach Russland. Aber in
seinem Innern bewahrte er einen reichen Schatz - seine Erfindungsgabe. Die Idee zum
Arithmographen, deren jetzt Tausende in alle Welt hinausgehen und wachsende Verbreitung finden,
hatte der junge Ingenieur damals - im Jahre 1869 - bereits entworfen. Er fand eine Anstellung im
technischen Geschäft von Macpherson und lernte während seines hiesigen Aufenthalts in seines
Landsmann, dem verstorbenen Ludwig Nobel, einen Beraten und einen Förderer seiner Ideen. Eine
Anstellung in der Numerationsabteilung der Expedition zur Anfertigung von Staatspapieren gab
seinem Erfindungsgeist die gewünschte Richtung. Nach seinen Angaben wurden die
Präzisionsapparate der Expedition, die in Russland schwer herzustellen und auch aus dem Auslande
mit vielen Unständlichkeiten zu beschaffen waren, vervollkommnet. Der damalige Verwalter der
Expedition, es war vor 27 Jahren, machte Odhner den Vorschlag, seine eigene kleine Werkstatt für
Numerationsapparate und zu Reparaturen der Maschinen an der Expedition einzurichten. In dieser
Zeit wurde die Orlowsche Vielfarbendruckmaschine für die Herstellung der Staatspapiere eingeführt.
Infolgedessen war Odhner genötigt, seinen Betrieb bedeutend zu vergrössern. Er erwarb ein eigenes
Grundstück bei der Expedition, auf dem dann seine Fabrik - die Maschinenfabrik ”W. T. Odhner” -
im Jahre 1893 entstand. Unter solchen Verhältnissen, die sich der selfmademan durch eigene Arbeit
geschaffen, konnte er seine urigene Idee - den Arithmographen - ausgestalten. Diese Apparate fanden
immer grössere Verbreitung, sie werden - eine Seltenheit für ein russischer Fabrikat - sogar ins
Ausland exportiert. Die Erfindungsgabe Odhners beschränkte sich jedoch nicht bloss auf diese
einzige Idee: die zahlreichen Präzisionsapparate, Zählwerke, die Tourniquets (wie sie an den Finnländ.
Dampferanfahrten eingeführt sind) sind seine Erfindung. Nur durch seine Energie und seine
Fähigkeiten ist es ihm im Laufe von 30-40 Jahren gelungen, ohne Mittel, seine Fabrik zu schaffen. Sie
ist auch ”sein Kind” bis an sein Lebensende geblieben. Und wie er sein eigenstes Werk väterlich
liebte, so liebte er auch die, die an diesem Werke mitgearbeitet haben - seine Arbeiter und seine
Angestellten. Für seine Arbeiter ist er unablässig besorgt gewesen. Ein einziger Zug mag dieses
Verhalten illustrieren. Venige Tage vor seinem Tode liess sich der Schwerkranke durch alle
Fabrikräume tragen, um noch einmal seine Arbeiter, alle ohne Ausnahme, sehen, noch einmal den
Betrieb, den er geschaffen, überblicken zu können. - Aber auch alle anderen, die den Verstorbenen
ausserhalb seiner Arbeit kennen gelernt haben, werden sein herzlichkeit, gewinnendes Wesen nicht
Mit Wilgodt Theophil Odhner, der hier am 2. September nach langen, schweren Leiden verstarb,
ist eine in gewisser Hinsicht markante Persönlichkeit aus dem Leben geschieden, da er sowohl in
Europa als auch in Amerika als Erfinder der Arithmometers und einer Numerationsmaschine sich
eines Rufes erfreute. Er wurde 1845 in Karstadt, in Schweden geboren, von wo er 1869 als Ingenieur
nach St. Petersburg kam. In der Expedition zur Anfertigung von Staatspapieren begründete er die
Numerationsabteilung für Kreditbillete. Seine Tourniquets für Dampferanfahrten haben eine weite
Verbreitung gefunden. Seine mechanischen Wahlkästen für geheimes Ballotement sollen in der
Reichsduma Verwendung finden. Seine Arithmometer finden in allen Ländern Absatz und
Willgodt Theophil Odhner, the first child of Theophil Dynamiel, and the first born of the fourth
generation of Odhners, was born in Wärmland, Aug. 10th, 1845. He studied at the Technological
Institute in Stockholm and graduated as a civil engineer. In 1869 he emigrated to Russia, and was
employed by Mr. Nobel, the great Swedish engineer who afterwards founded the ”Nobel Prizes”.
Afterwards he was employed as engineer at the Imperial Bank in St. Petersburg and invented a
wonderful counting machine, the ”Odhner Arithmometer”. This, and many other inventions, brought
him fame and wealth, and he established a great mechanical factory, which is still running very
successfully. Great orders from the Government, during the Russo-Japanese war for fine machinery
connected with guns, made him quite a wealthy man. He was a kind and good man, but had no idea of
the New Church. I never saw him after he left Sweden, when I was but six years old. He died in 1905.
With his wife, Alma Skånberg, he had seven [should be 8] children, all of whom are Russians.
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