JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 539
One of the most unexpected monuments--to me at least--in the history of modern computation is the fantastic electrical calculating machine that shows up in the vast, dense, and bibliographically complicated work by Georg Heinrich Seiferheid (1757-1818), Sammulung Electrischer Spielwerke fur junge..., published over the years 1791 to 1817. Mr. Seiferheid was an experimenter, innovator, inventor and writer, and wrapped up in one complicated ball, publishing his major and minor bits under the heading of this one large work over a period of least 16 years. And don't let the title fool you: in the vein of Chandrasekhar's Newton's Principia for the Common Reader, there wasn't all that much in these volumes by Seiferheid for kids, just like in the Chandrasekhar book, which redefined the phrase "Common Reader" way, way up. Even taking into account the level at which children were educated in the applied and natural sciences/philosophy, which demanded more from the 18th and 19th century kids than out grade school do now, Seiferheid's work is obvious far removed from that. Perhaps it was because he had a large number of gadgety trinkets that hung through the work like plumb lines that the word junge was included--I really don't know. The vastness of his reach though into all manner of mechanical and electrical objects is very impressive--Seiferheid evidently constructed electrically powered guns, clocks, and of course this fantastic calculating device. The calculator was much similar to the machine invented (although no version of it survived) by Wilhelm Schickard (1592-1635) in 1623, followed by that in 1643 of the overwhelming Blaise Pascal (with the "Pascaline") and then again in 1675 of Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) who produced the "Stepped Reckoner"—the Seiferheid machine was more complex, and of course, electric, a true and terrific innovation, creating for its maker the sobriquet of "grandfather" of the modern computer.
* I have found very little biographical data on this man; even the very reliable Poggendorff has only about 15 lines on him: he was born in Wurtemberg, was a professor of physics at the Gymnasium at Schwabisch Hall, and that's about it for the personal data. He did write four other books in addition to this ten-volume magnum opus.
I am unsure of why this man is so little known to general readers.