Lyons silk weaver who invented a loom to make complex patterns programmed on punched cards. His work was  interrupted by the wars of the 1790s in which he fought on the Republican side.

Joseph Marie Jacquard is the one that got away.

We know that he was on the losing, Royalist, side at the Siege of Lyons in 1793, and that he switched sides and became an officer in the Republican army, before quitting disillusioned after the death of his son around 1797.

We know Jacquard’s loom impressed Napoleon Bonaparte, and later – unknown to him – the inventor Charles Babbage, who selected punched cards as the input method for his clockwork computers.

But I can find no evidence of where he was in 1794, or even when the imaginitive breakthrough of the programmable loom first came to him. It would be wonderful to find out more about those lost year, but for now Monsieur Jacquard is the joker of the pack.

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