William Macnider: Complete Biography, History, and Inventions

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William Macnider: Complete Biography, History, and Inventions

Who Was William Macnider?

In 1884, John Macnider of Greensborough, Georgia, applied for a patent for a keyboard adding machine. Unfortunately, very little else is known about this machine and its inventor. Only his U.S. patent and details about his keyboard adding machine are known.

Early Life

It’s believed that William John Macnider was a member of the famous Macnider family. This Scottish-Canadian family included several prominent businessmen and politicians. The administrator of the patent, Quintin Macnider, is believed to be a relative of William.

Quick Facts

Full Name
William John Macnider
Net Worth
  • U.S. patent No. 322190, featured article in Scientific American
Place of Birth
Greensborough, Georgia
Fields of Expertise
Keyboard adding machine

Quintin, who lived in Belleville, Ontario, Canada, until his death in 1895, was a shareholder and the manager of the local branch of City Bank of Montreal. Moreover, Quintin Macnider was a holder of another U.S. (and also Canadian) patent (US355095 and CA26172) for a step ladder from 1886.

What Did William Macnider Create?

Black and white of William Macnider’s keyboard adding machine.

Keyboard Adding Machine

William Macnider is remembered for inventing and patenting a 10 key calculator in 1884.

In the patent application, only four adding wheels are shown, but as many as may be desired may be provided. The entire mechanism was contained in a box on the bottom of which were pivoted two standards, with a shaft journaled in their upper ends.

On the shaft were nine ratchet wheels, adjoining each of which was a lever mounted to rock on the shaft, and having a pawl pressed by a spring against the teeth of its wheel. Each lever was connected by a wire with an arm pivoted on a standard and pressed upward by a spring.

The wires and arms were of different lengths so the same vertical throw of the different arms caused the ratchet wheels to turn different distances. Rods or push pins projected upward through the top of the box. These rods were organized in an odd-number row and even-number row.

In the rear of the box were two standards that pivoted to swing in a vertical plane. They were united by a cross piece and a shaft journaled at the top. There were many cogwheels mounted on the shaft. When the first wheel revolved ten teeth, its pawl passed into the recess in the adjoining hub, and the second wheel was turned one space so that the number 11 showed through the slot. The first wheel was no longer needed and shifted out of use by pushing the rod downward.

All of these gears, wheels, and arms resulted in a 10 key calculator that improved upon other designs. It doesn’t appear to have been a major commercial success, because little is known about it, but this mechanical calculator was another step in the history of modern calculators and, eventually, computers.

William Macnider: Awards and Achievements

U.S. Patent No. 322190

The patent for the keyboard adding machine (US patent No. 322190) was granted on July 14, 1885. The administrator of the patent was Quintin Macnider, as William Macnider died sometime before then.

After the first keyboard adding machine of Luigi Torchi from the 1830s, there are quite a few patents for one-column keyboard adders, especially from the 1880s in the United States, such as the adding machine of Andrew Stark. The William Macnider 10 key calculator was another addition to the growing number of mechanical calculator technologies during this era.

Scientific American Recognition

The adding machine of William Macnider was appreciated and described in an article in the popular science magazine, Scientific American, vol. 53, No. 9, from August 29, 1885. The drawing in the article shows that there was a working model of the machine, probably the patent model of the device. It was only until 1880 that the U.S. Patent Office required inventors to submit a model with their patent application. so in 1885, the patent model was not required, but Macnider’s patent application specified that such a model had been sent to the Patent Office.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who was William Macnider?

Little is known about William Macnider, except for the patent he was awarded for a mechanical calculator in 1884.

What did William Macnider invent?

William Macnider invented a well-designed keyboard adder in 1884.

What led William Macnider to patent the keyboard adding machine?  

The history of William Macnider is largely unknown. He wasn’t even alive when the patent was finally awarded.

When was William Macnider born?

The birth year of William Macnider is unknown, though he died sometime before July 1885.

When did William Macnider die?

William Macnider’s death date is unknown, though he died sometime before July 14, 1885.

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