Leonard Stowe – Complete Biography, History, and Inventions

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Leonard Stowe – Complete Biography, History, and Inventions

Who was Leonard Stowe?

Leonard Stowe was born on March 11, 1837, in Trolly Hall. This is a large townhouse that is still preserved in Buckingham, Aylesbury Vale District, South East England. He was born to William Stowe (1791-1860), who was a surgeon at Buckingham, and to Mary, his wife. Leonard had an older brother, William Henry Stowe (1825-1855),  who was an English journalist and scholar. Leonard was well-educated, traveled rather extensively, and later devised an invention. He would receive a patent for this calculating machine. During his lifetime he also held several governmental positions in New Zealand.

Leonard Stowe in 1902.

Early life

Leonard attended school at Iffley, near Oxford. Later, from 1853 to 1856, he studied at the celebrated Rugby School in Warwick-shire, which is one of the oldest independent schools in Britain.

Quick Facts

Full Name
Leonard Stowe
March 11, 1837
April 25, 1920
Net Worth
Place of Birth
Fields of Expertise
Worked in New Zealand’s legislature.
He devised an invention; a patented adding machine.

On September 2, 1858, Leonard Stowe boarded the ship, Lady Alice, when traveling from Gravesend, near London, to Nelson, New Zealand. This trip took approximately four months, with Stowe arriving on January 14, 1859.


Phase 1 

In Nelson, Stowe had some years’ experience of station life under Arthur Penrose Seymour, a run-holder from the Awatere district. A station in New Zealand was a large farm that raised sheep and cattle.

In 1863 Stowe was appointed secretary to Thomas Carter, third Superintendent of the province of Marlborough. From 1864 Stowe acted under Seymour when he was raised to the fourth Superintendent of the province of Marlborough.

Phase 2

Leonard Stowe became Clerk of the Legislative Council in 1865. This is a position he occupied for more than 20 years. In 1889 he was appointed as a Clerk of the Parliaments. Stowe filled many other offices during his career and he was a notable figure in the Parliamentary life of New Zealand for over 30 years. He was also a headmaster of Nelson College for several years.

What Did Leonard Stowe Invent?

In the late 1870s, the government clerk from Wellington, New Zealand, Leonard Stowe devised an adding machine that he would eventually receive a patent for in 1880 in Great Britain and Germany. It was patent Nr. DE11907. The English patent for Stowe’s Patent Calculating Machine was assigned to Stowe Brothers, London.

Stowe’s Patent Calculating Machine was exhibited at the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1881 and received honorable mention.

The patent drawing of Leonard Stowe’s adding machine.

The machine of Stowe consists of several cylinders, or rollers, with figures printed on them. To the left of the cylinders are some indicators, each of which records every perfect revolution of its corresponding cylinder. To place the machine ready for work, the indicators must be turned until zero or naught is visible; and the cylinders must be turned so that the zero is on the extreme left.

The following is an example of how to use Stowe’s adding machine:

Turn the cylinder towards you until 4 appears in the first column at the left end—stop, start again from the zero or red square, now visible until you come to 5 in that column. Start again from the zero or red square, now visible, until you come to 7 in that column. Start again from the zero or red square, now visible, until you come to 3 in that column. Start again from the zero or red square, now visible, until you come to 4 in that column.

On looking at the indicator you will find figure 2 recorded, and figure 3 will be the figure now visible at the left end of the cylinder, the two together making 23 which is the required total.

Note: The result of any addition will always be found by reading the figures recorded on the indicators together with the first figure on the left end of the cylinders.

Information regarding Stowe’s calculating machine is contained at the Victoria University of Wellington. It describes the invention, which has a patent, as both simple and accurate. His adding machine is also listed on a patent list for 1880 to 1889.

Leonard Stowe: Marriage, Divorce, Children, and Personal Life


Leonard Stowe’s first wife, Mary Jane, died on March 26, 1868, at only 30 years old. Three years later he married an artist, Jane Greenwood (1838-1931) on May 31, 1871, in Nelson, New Zealand. 

Jane was born on April 18, 1838, in Charenton-le-Pont, Île-de-France, France, the 3rd daughter of Dr. John Danforth Greenwood (1803-1890), a successful physician from Mitcham, Surrey, England, and Sarah Greenwood  (1809-1889). 

She arrived in Nelson, NZ, with her parents and siblings (seven brothers and sisters, as her youngest brother, was born on-board the ship while they were traveling to New Zealand) aboard the Phoebe ship on March 29, 1843.

They left England from Gravesend on November 16, 1842, as Dr. Greenwood had secured the position of Surgeon Superintendent and Justice of the Peace, receiving free passage for himself and his family in return.

Dr. John Danforth Greenwood (far left) and his wife Sarah Fields-Greenwood (far right), with family members in between (a photo from the early 1850s). The girl with the cat in the first row is probably the young Jane Greenwood.
Leonard and Jane Stowe lived in a nice wooden house called Te Moana (later known as Tiakiwai) at 2 Tinakori Road, Wellington.
Leonard Stowe and his wife Jane Stowe (Greenwood) in the early 1870s (Image courtesy of Marlborough Museum, Marlborough Historical Society Inc.).


Leonard and Jane Stowe had five children: three sons— William Reginald, Harry, and Leonard Acland, and two daughters—Emily Muriel, and Mary Sylvia.

Leonard Stowe died at age 83 on April 25, 1920, and was buried in Bolton Street Cemetery, Wellington. His wife Jane died of bronchitis in Wellington on November 5, 1931, at age 93.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who was Leonard Stowe?

Leonard Stowe worked in New Zealand’s government and later invented a calculating machine.

What did Leonard Stowe invent?

Leonard Stowe devised an adding machine that was exhibited in 1881.

How did Leonard Stowe invent his adding machine?

Leonard Stowe put together cylinders and rollers that were to be turned. Answers for this calculating machine were then found by reading the figures on the indicators.

When was Leonard Stowe born?

He was born on March 11, 1837.

When did Leonard Stowe die?

He died on April 25, 1920.

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