Born: 22 April 1592 in Herrenberg (near Tübingen), Württemberg (now Germany)
Died: 24 Oct 1635 in Tübingen, Württemberg (now Germany)

William Schickard was the first man to create a mechanical calculating device, which he called a calculation clock. This machine, constructed around 1623 C.E., aided in the multiplication of large numbers. He was one of the first in the line of inventors leading to the eventual construction of modern-day computers.

He studied in the University of Tübingen, receiving his Master of Art degree in 1611. In 1613 he became a Lutheran minister for towns in the nearby region, working as a minister until 1619, when he was appointed a Professor of Hebrew at the University.

Twelve years later, in 1631, he switched tracks and was appointed a Professor of Astronomy, a post he kept for the rest of his life.

He studied various things, including mathematics, astronomy, surveying, and languages. He corresponded with many famous mathematicians and scientists of the day, such as Kepler. He was also known for his skill in engraving copper plate as well as wood.

He created several mechanical devices over his life, in addition to the calculation clock. These included a device to calculate astronomical dates, and one for dealing with Hebrew grammar.

His adding machine included an automatic carry, and was partly based on earlier work by John Napier, who had devised a simple system for helping multiplication. As no copies of the actual machine remain, Blaise Pascal is often credited with the first actual automatic carry machine.

William died of the plague in 1635, leaving behind an impressive legacy of works. Though I'd expect he'd be quite surprised by where his simple machine has led mankind over the years.

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