Leibniz and the Stocking Frame: Computation, Weaving and Knitting in the 17th Century

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Abstract

The comparison made by Ada Lovelace in 1843 between the Analytical Engine and the Jacquard loom is one of the well-known analogies between looms and computation machines. Given the fact that weaving – and textile production in general – is one of the oldest cultural techniques in human history, the question arises whether this was the first time that such a parallel was drawn. As this paper will show, centuries before Lovelace’s analogy, such a comparison was made by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. During the 17th century, Leibniz compared his calculating machines with another textile machine, the stocking frame, a machine which mechanized knitting and which was invented in 1589. During the following centuries, this machine was considered as a technological wonder and as a creation of God, and, during the last decades of the 17th century, Leibniz emphasized the need to consider it and other textile machines mathematically.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMinds and Machines
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Keywords

  • Calculating machines
  • Diderot
  • Leibniz
  • Stocking frame
  • Weaving instruments

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • Artificial Intelligence

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