Mathematical Treasure: Jean Lepine’s Adding Machine

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

The French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) designed a stylus-operated adding machine in 1645 that worked well but was not sold widely. In 1725, Jean Lepine, who may have been the king’s watchmaker and mechanic, designed a machine that was operated by springs instead of falling weights, although it still required a stylus. Its workings are discussed on a history of computing website, which links to a copy of Lepine’s paper about the device. This particular example was repaired in 1844 by Charles Xavier Thomas of Colmar.

Lepine adding machine, 1725, owned by the Smithsonian Institution.

Lepine adding machine, 1725, Smithsonian Institution negative number NMAH-89-19705.

This object and other adding machines from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History are shown at the website

Index of Mathematical Treasures

Index of Mathematical Objects