Sir Samuel Morland

Date of Birth:    1625
Date of Death:    Dec. 30, 1695
Profession:    Diplomats; Inventors; Mathematicians; Government officials; Statesmen; Scientists
Text:    Biography from Leaders of the Information Age (2003)
Copyright (c) by The H. W. Wilson Company. All rights reserved.
Morland, Samuel
1625-Dec. 30, 1695 Inventor of mechanical calculators
    The 17th-century English diplomat Sir Samuel Morland invented three mechanical calculators: a trigonometrical calculating machine, an adding machine, and a mechanical version of John Napier's "multiplying bones"--a set of graduated rods that could be used to multiply and divide using logarithms. While not the first mechanical calculators invented, they were the first to be commercially marketed in Europe. His trigonometrical calculating machine was considered a vast improvement over any other machine then available for calculating navigation at sea. His adding machine was a pocket-sized mechanical forerunner of contemporary electronic calculators. His multiplying machine proved to be complementary to his adding machine; when combined they allowed for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Though Morland's machines were considered more of a curiosity in his day than practical, everyday devices, they are significant for providing a bridge from earlier mechanical devices, such as Napier's bones, to modern electronic calculators.
    Samuel Morland was born in 1625 in Sulhamstead Bannister, Berkshire, England, the son of Thomas Morland, the rector of Sulhamstead Bannister. He was educated at Winchester College from 1639 to 1644, and then at Magdalene College, part of Cambridge University. Though he hailed from a religious family, he earned his bachelor of arts in mathematics, instead of theology, from Magdalene in 1648. In 1649 he became a fellow of the college and continued his education there, receiving his master's degree, in 1652. While studying for his postgraduate degree, he became good friends with Samuel Pepys, from whose diary historians have uncovered information about Morland's personal life.
    After leaving Cambridge, in 1653, Morland became deeply immersed in the political turmoil surrounding Oliver Cromwell's overthrow of King Charles II and the establishment of the English Commonwealth. As a Cromwell supporter, Morland found favor in the Commonwealth government and joined the diplomatic staff of ambassador Bulstrode Whitelocke. Their first diplomatic mission was to Sweden, in 1653, where they arranged a commercial treaty between England and Queen Christina's court. As a great supporter of the sciences, the Swedish queen frequently brought esteemed scientists and philosophers to her court to discuss their work and present their inventions and findings. In 1652 the inventor Blaise Pascal had sent the queen a copy of his adding machine, which she kept on display to show visiting officials; historians believe it is very likely that she would have shown the machine to Morland as a visiting ambassador.
    A year after returning from Sweden, Morland was again sent by the Commonwealth government on a goodwill mission, this time to the court of the duke of Savoy, in Italy. On his return from Italy he stopped in Paris, France, to perform some diplomatic services with the court of Louis XIV. While his diplomatic mission was not much of a success, he established contacts with scientists and scholars in both the French court and the French scientific community. After Morland married his first wife, Susanne de Milleville, the daughter of Daniel Milleville, the Baron of Boissay, in 1657, his association with France was further solidified. Over the next several years he and his wife made a number of trips to France and very likely became acquainted with Rene Grillet, the clockmaker to Louis XIV and inventor of his own calculating machine.
    Morland's relationship with the Cromwell government deteriorated after he became aware of a plot to assassinate Charles II and his brother. After warning Charles of the plot against him, he began working as a spy for the monarchy, hoping to achieve its restoration. After the restoration of the king, charges were brought against Morland for having worked with Cromwell, but he received a full pardon in 1660, and later that same year, he was knighted by Charles II and made a baronet. Though he never received the financial help he wanted from the king, he was provided with a pension--enough of an income to focus his energies on the building of mechanical devices.
    Morland's trigonometry machine, less than a foot long on each side, was made of brass and coated with silver on its front surface. It combined a ruler with two simple gears turned by two handles on the lower right- and left-hand sides of the machine; the handle on the left turned the machine's large central circle, while the one on the right moved the horizontal bar across the center of the large circle up and down across the face. The two arms of the sector were arranged so that one was locked to the central disc, and the other could move around the rotation of the central wheel. The disc and the face of the instrument were marked in such a manner as to measure hours, minutes, and degrees, or to show the directions of a compass. As Michael A. Williams noted in A History of Computing Technology (1997): "This device, because of its mechanical settings, had obvious advantages over the elementary sector when being used for navigational calculations at sea. In addition, the mechanical settings would often allow much finer readings from the scales than were possible when using a simple pair of dividers to transfer readings from one scale to the next."
    Morland's adding machine was designed to add English money and was composed of eight dials that were moved by a simple stylus. (The non-decimal dials for farthings, pence, and shillings were on the lower half of the device, thereby allowing the upper part to be used for adding decimal numbers up to five places.) As Williams explained: "If it was desired to add four pounds to a sum already registered on the machine, you simply put the stylus into the hole at the position marked four on the dial corresponding to the units digit of the pounds register (upper right-hand dial) and then rotated it in a clockwise direction until the stylus was at the top of the dial. The result of the operation could be seen through the small window at the 12 o'clock position on each dial." However, since there was no carry instrument on the machine, Morland built several auxiliary dials above each of the major dials, so that every time a major dial moved from 9 to 0, a tooth inside the machine would advance the carry dial. Williams goes on to note: "Morland's adding machine was . . . both simple in construction and reliable in operation as long as the operator remembered to add the carries forward at the end of the normal adding operation." Morland advertised the pocket-sized device in the London Gazette, on April 16, 1668, though few were actually sold.
    Morland's final calculating machine, a mechanical version of Napier's bones, was a flat, brass dish with a hinged, perforated gate and circular discs carved with numbers. This was mounted on semicircular pins. The discs themselves were circular versions of Napier's bones, the numbers set around the edge of a disc instead of a straight line. (In total the machine had 30 discs for standard multiplication, plus five more for finding square and cube roots.) Williams detailed how the machine worked: "To find the single-digit products of a given number, for example, 1234, the disks representing these digits would be removed from the upper pins and placed over the semi-circular pins on the lower portion of the instrument. The hinged gate would then be lowered over the disks, and the key would be turned until the small pointer indicated that the proper multiple would be showing through the windows in the hinged gate. The act of turning the key would, through an elementary rack-and-pinion mechanism, rotate the disks under the gate and move the pointer along the product indicator. The digits of the required product could then be found by adding together the pairs of digits showing through each gate window."
    In 1671 Morland built a speaking trumpet that he claimed would allow a conversation to be conducted over a distance of three-quarters of a mile. He also invented the diagonal and balance barometer. But his central preoccupation was in the field of hydrostatics. In the 17th century many scientists were interested in developing mechanical ways to raise water. Morland's invention was comprised of a cistern from which air was expelled by a charge of gunpowder, causing water to rise to fill the vacuum thus produced. In the London Gazette of July 30, 1681, as quoted in the Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1974), the author described a demonstration near Windsor castle, during which Morland brought the water--tinted with a vat of red wine to make it more visible--up in a continuous stream at the rate of 60 barrels an hour, "with the strength of eight men." In 1681, recognizing his success, the king proclaimed him to be "Master of Mechanicks."
    Sir Samuel Morland married at least four times. He married his second wife, Carola Harnett, on October 26, 1670. After she died, in 1676, he married Anne Fielding on November 16, 1676. She died in 1680, and he married Mary Aylip, on February 1, 1687. He was survived by only one of his children, Samuel, who became the family's second and final baronet. Morland went blind in the last three years of his life and died on December 30, 1695, in Hammersmith, where he had retired.--C. M.

Suggested Reading: Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 1974; Cortada, James W. Historical Dictionary of Data Processing: Biographies, 1987; Williams, Michael A. A History of Computing Technology, 1997