Joseph-Marie Jacquard 


Jacquard was born to a poor silk merchant in Lyon, France in 1752. When his father died in 1772 he inherited a the family house and a hand loom with which he ran a silk factory until his penchant for trying to improve the process doomed the business.  Jacquard apparently had developed the basic idea of the loom by 1790.  However, he served in the army during the French revolution during which time he made no progress.  Finally, in 1801 Jacquard exhibited a loom for weaving figured silk in Lyons.  In the ensuing mayhem the inventor was attacked and his invention reduced to ruins.  According to Jacquard's account, "The iron was sold for old iron, the wood for kindling, while I was delivered over to universal ignominy."  In 1803 demonstrated the machine in Paris, where he was awarded a patent and a medal.  In 1806 the loom was declared public property, and Jacquard was given a pension and a royalty payment for each machine.  It is estimated that by 1812 there were 11,000 in use in France.  Jacquard was able to lead a quiet and comfortable life until his death in 1834, at Oullins, near Lyon.

Jacquard's primary contribution to weaving and to automation in general was the introduction of punch cards that automated the very tedious and labor intensive process of weaving patterns into a fabric.  The punch cards encoded information in a way which could then guide the machine in ways that previously required humans.  In addition to Babbage, the American statistician Herman Hollerith employed punch cards as a form of data entry for the 1890 census.   Punch cards were once the usual means of feeding programming and data into a computer.



Loom Held at Smithsonian Museum

Another Jaquard Loom

A Puchcard for the Loom









Ideafinder Biography Discussion of the Loom Biography