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

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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
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


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

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • Artificial Intelligence


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