Combination locks - technology

Many inventors have turned their considerable skills to the problems of combination locks. Most of them simply improved on existing locks.

For example, Ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari of Northern Mesopotamia (now southeastern Turkey) in the 13th century and Venetian engineer Giovanni da Fontana in the early 15th century.

Others include the German locksmiths Hans Bullmann and Hans Ehemann in Nuremberg in the early and mid-16th century, and Italian mathematician and physician Girolamo Cardano and French mathematician Johannes Buteo in the same era.

In the early 17th century, there was also Gustavus Selenus, also known as Augustus the younger, Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg, and even King Louis VIII of France. In the 18th century, the French mechanic Edme Regnier from Semur-en-Auxois, near Dion, also worked with combination locks.

In the early 19th century, another Frenchman, Léopold Hyret in Paris, German Jakob Zipper in Augsburg and Swiss Albert Roux. In the United States, Thomas Jefferson (later to become president), JB Gray in Virginia, and Joshua H Butterworth in New Jersey all tried their hand. And of course the well-known British locksmiths John Chubb and Alfred Hobbs. Somewhat less known names are Herbert Wenham from South London and the Vicomte de Kersolon from Paris.

Definition of combination lock from Encyclopaedia Britannica:

The keyless combination (see Figure 6) lock derives from the “letter-lock,” in use in England at the beginning of the 17th century. In it a number of rings (inscribed with letters or numbers) are threaded on a spindle; when the rings are turned so that a particular word or number is formed, the spindle can be drawn out because slots inside the rings all fall in line. Originally, these letter locks were used only for padlocks and trick boxes. In the last half of the 19th century, as developed for safes and strong-room doors, they proved to be the most secure form of closure. The number of possible combinations of letters or numbers is almost infinite and they have no keyholes into which an explosive charge can be placed. Furthermore, they are easy to manufacture.

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