Peter Lindholm – Complete Biography, History, and Inventions

Peter Lindholm adding machine

Peter Lindholm – Complete Biography, History, and Inventions

Who was Peter Lindholm?

Peter Trulson Lindholm was born on April 4th, 1850, in Ysone, Blekinge, Sweden. Lindholm emigrated to the United States around 1874 when he was just 24 years old. By 1883, he had settled in Lindsborg, a small town in the Smoky Valley region of north-central Kansas. While this rural location seems somewhat random, Lindholm actually made the move to be a professor of mathematics at the newly founded Bethany College.

Peter taught at Bethany College for just over two years. Then, in the fall of 1886, Lindholm was elected treasurer of McPherson County — a position that he kept for four years until his untimely death in 1890.

Quick Facts

Full Name
Peter Lindholm
Net Worth
Seven (Edna, Victor, Stena, Edna, Alma, Sigfrid, Anna)
Swedish, American
Place of Birth
Ysone, Blekinge, Sweden
Fields of Expertise
Bethany College, McPherson County local government
The one column key-driven adding machine

Early Life

In truth, not much is known about Peter Lindholm’s early life beyond his place of birth and his year of emigration. His parents’ names are unknown, as are the names of any potential siblings he might have had. According to records, he spent his adolescence in Sweden, then moved to the US in his young adulthood. 


Perhaps what’s most unique about Peter Lindholm is the course his professional life took. He traversed several different careers in his short lifetime, each just as prolific as the last.


More than anything else in his life, Peter Lindholm’s work as the inventor of the Lindholm Adder remains his most notable career accomplishment. His skills in the field of mathematics and his later endeavors in life are certainly important, but Lindholm’s invention is, without question, a cornerstone of modern computing.


After inventing the Lindholm Adder, Peter Lindholm was invited to be a professor at a new school in Lindsborg, Kansas called Bethany College. Lindholm taught here for two years between the years of 1883 and 1885 before leaving the college and moving onto an elected position within the local government in Lindsborg.

Local Government

From the fall of 1886 until his death in 1890, Peter Lindholm was the elected treasurer of McPherson County, Kansas — a very good use of his math skills, no doubt. Given all he accomplished in the field, it only makes sense that the people of McPherson County would trust him as their treasurer for the final years of his life. Interestingly enough, during this time, Lindholm was also the choir master of the local oratorio society. 

What Did Peter Lindholm Invent?

For Peter Lindholm, all it took was one invention to go down in the history books as one of the earliest and brightest mathematical innovators of the modern computing era. That one invention was the iconic Lindholm Adder, a one column key-driven adding machine that can still be seen in the design of countless calculators and other technologies throughout the 20th and into the 21st century.

The One Column Key-Driven Adding Machine

In 1886, Peter Lindholm received a patent for a one column key-driven adding machine — it was colloquially known as the Lindholm Adder. The mechanics of the Lindholm Adder are rather simple but nevertheless reliable: The adder features two metal wheels on the left side to display results and one metal wheel on the right side that is inscribed with the numbers 00 to 99 around its circumference. This metal wheel also features a ratchet wheel with one hundred equally spaced teeth.

This wheel is coupled to the smaller wheel on the left via a series of gears that cause the wheels to slowly turn in opposite directions of one another — the left goes one way, while the right goes the other. The smaller wheel is for the hundreds place of an equation, and it also has numbers and teeth around its circumference. These wheels effectively increase the maximum adding capacity of the machine to 999.

The adder is key-driven, which means it relies on the pressing of typewriter-like keys with corresponding numbers ranging from 0 to 9. All of this machinery resides within a wooden base, which hides all the metal mechanisms underneath a much cleaner-looking wooden design. This wooden base resembles an old-school cash register, in a way. 

Lindholm patent drawing
The patent drawing of Peter Lindholm’s Adding Machine
Lindholm adding machine
Lindholm’s Adding Machine
Lindholm adding machine without cover
Lindholm’s Adding Machine without the cover

Peter Lindholm: Marriage, Children, and Personal Life


Peter Lindholm married his wife Anna Mattson on November 3rd, 1875 in Vasa, Minnesota. They were married for 15 years before his tragic passing in 1890.


Peter and Anna had seven children together, including a daughter named Edna Dorothea Lindholm, a son named Victor Ambrosius Lindholm, a daughter named Stena Aurora Lindholm, a daughter named Edna Henrietta Lindholm, a daughter named Alma Hildegard Lindholm, a son named Sigfrid Alvin Lindholm, and a daughter named Anna Olga Petronella Lindholm. (Yes, that’s two daughters with the first name Edna. It’s possible this could be the result of one passing away at a young age, an unfortunate but common occurrence in the 19th century.) 


Peter T. Lindholm died of consumption on January 25, 1890. He was only 39 years old, just a few months shy of turning 40. Tragically, he left behind his wife and five children and a legacy of great inventiveness.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Peter Lindholm?

Peter Lindholm was a Swedish-American inventor, lecturer, and government official from the late 1800s. 

What did Peter Lindholm invent?

Peter Lindholm invented the Lindholm Adder, a one column key-driven adding machine, in 1886.

How did Lindholm’s adding machine work?

Peter Lindholm’s Lindholm Adder works by simply pressing the number keys a certain amount of times. For instance, pressing the “8” key ten times would read “b|80,” with “b” representing 0 and the line separating the tens from the hundreds place.

When was Peter Lindholm born?

Peter Lindholm was born on April 4th, 1850.

When did Peter Lindholm die?

Peter T. Lindholm died on January 25th, 1890.

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