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Portrait of Morland by Peter Lely, 1645

Sir Samuel Morland, 1st Baronet (1625 – 30 December 1695), or Moreland, was an English academic, diplomat, spy, inventor and mathematician of the 17th century, a polymath credited with early developments in relation to computing, hydraulics and steam power.


The son of Thomas Morland, the rector of Sulhamstead Bannister in Berkshire, he was educated at Winchester College and Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he became a Fellow in 1649.[1] Devoting much time to the study of mathematics, Morland also became an accomplished Latinist and was proficient in Greek, Hebrew and French – then the language of culture and diplomacy. While he was a tutor at Cambridge, he first encountered Samuel Pepys who became a lifelong acquaintance.


Print illustrating the 1655 massacre in La Torre, from Morland's History of the Evangelical Churches of the Valleys of Piedmont (1658)

A keen follower of public affairs, he left Cambridge and entered public service. He undertook a trip to Sweden in 1653, and in 1655 was sent by Oliver Cromwell on a mission to Italy to protest at actions taken against the Waldensians by the Duke of Savoy. He remained in Geneva for some time in an ambassadorial role, and also wrote a book: The History of the Evangelical Churches of the Valleys of Piemont, published in London in 1658.


While he was serving as secretary to John Thurloe, a Commonwealth official in charge of espionage, Morland became disillusioned with the Government of the Commonwealth, allegedly after learning of a plot by Sir Richard Willis, Thurloe and Richard Cromwell to assassinate the future King Charles II. As a double agent, Morland began to work towards the Restoration, engaging in espionage and cryptography, activities that later helped him enter the King's service. In the 1660s he may have invented columnar transposition, an encryption technique which became very popular in 19th and 20th centuries.


On 18 July 1660 he was created a baronet and given a minor role at court, but his principal source of income came from applying his knowledge of mathematics and hydraulics to construct and maintain various machines. These included:

  • "water-engines", an early kind of water pump. He was, for example, engaged on projects to improve the water supply to Windsor Castle, during which time he patented (c. 1675) a 'plunger pump' capable of "raising great quantities of water with far less proportion of strength than can be performed by a Chain or other Pump." He also experimented with using gunpowder to make a vacuum that would suck in water (in effect the first internal combustion engine) and worked on ideas for a steam engine. Morland's pumps were developed for numerous domestic, marine and industrial applications, such as wells, draining ponds or mines, and fire fighting. His calculation of the volume of steam (approximately two thousand times that of water) was not improved upon until the later part of the next century, and was of importance for the future development of a working steam engine.[2]
  • a non-decimal adding machine (working with English pounds, shillings and pence), similar to the Ciclografo of the Italian Tito Livio Burattini and made by Humphry Adamson[3]
  • a machine that made trigonometric calculations
"A new Multiplying Instrument" invented by Morland in 1666
  • an 'arithmetical machine' by which the four fundamental rules of arithmetic were readily worked "without charging the memory, disturbing the mind, or exposing the operations to any uncertainty" (regarded by some as the world's first multiplying machine, an example is in the Science Museum in South Kensington).
  • in 1666 he also obtained a patent for making metal fire-hearths
  • in 1671 he claimed credit for inventing the speaking trumpet, an early form of megaphone. One of only eight known surviving examples is displayed at the parish church of St Peter and St Paul at Harrington, Northamptonshire. The device, also known as "The Harrington Vamping Horn", was demonstrated to Charles II in St James's Park.[4]
  • he later won a contract to provide mirrors to the King and to erect and maintain the King’s printing press.
  • in 1681 he was appointed magister mechanicorum (master of mechanics) to the King for his work on the water system at Windsor.
  • he also corresponded with Pepys about naval gun-carriages, designed a machine to weigh ship's anchors, developed new forms of barometers, and designed a cryptographic machine.

Personal life and family

From 1677 he lived in the Vauxhall area of central London, where he made improvements to New Spring Gardens which later became Vauxhall Gardens. In 1684 he moved to a house in Lower Mall, Hammersmith.

Morland married three times:

  • In 1657 he married the Huguenot Susanne de Milleville, daughter of Daniel de Milleville, baron de Boissay; they had three children. She died in 1668.
  • In 1670 he married Carola Harsnett, daughter of Sir Roger Harsnett; they had two children. She died in 1674.
  • In 1676 he married Ann Feilding of Solihull, sister of Beau Feilding. There was no issue, and she died in 1680.[5]

There are monuments to two of Morland's three wives in the nave of Westminster Abbey.[6]

He began to go blind, losing his sight in about 1692. He died on 30 December 1695 and was buried, on 6 January 1696, in St Paul's Church, Hammersmith.

See also


  1. ^ "Morland, Samuel (MRLT645S)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. ^ Rosen, William (2010). "A Great Company of Men". The Most Powerful Idea in the World. New York: Random House. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-4000-6705-3.
  3. ^ Georgi Dalakov (6 April 2013). "The Calculating Machines of Sir Samuel Morland". Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  4. ^ Christopher Howse (16 October 2012). "Some people always look on the blight side of life". The Telegraph. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  5. ^ Marshall, Alan. "Morland, Sir Samuel". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/19282. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  6. ^ UK. "Carola and Ann Morland". Westminster Abbey. Retrieved 2 October 2015.

External links

21 Annotations

First Reading

Paul Brewster  •  Link

Samuel Morland, son of the Rev. Thomas Morland, of Sulhamstead Banister, near Reading, Berks, was born about 1625. He was educated at Winchester School, whence he removed to Magdalene College, Cambridge; admitted to a scholarship, July 18th, 1645; to a quinquennial fellowship, November 30th, 1649; and to a foundation fellowship, September 24th 1651. One of the fellows who signed Pepys's admission entry, October 1st, 1650. He became afterwards one of Turloe's under-secretaries, and was employed in several embassies, particularly to the Vaudois, by Cromwell, whose interests he betrayed, by secretly communicating with Charles II. He published in 1658, in a folio volume, his "History of the Evangelical Churches of the Valleys of Piemont [sic?]" He was knighted at Breda, and afterwards created a baronet. He was an ingenious mechanic, and made some improvements in the steam engine. At the Restoration he as made Master of Mechanics to Charles II, who presented him with a medal as an "honourable badge of his signal loyalty." He subsequently received a pension of L400 but sold it for ready money. He died December 30th 1695 and was buried in Hammersmith church on the 6th of the following January. His MSS are at Cambridge, in the Public Library"

vincent  •  Link

S.Morland also played with a Calculating machine that I believe can be seen at the Science Museum London

vincent  •  Link

In 1656 Morland became Clerk of the Signet, with a salary of

Paul Brewster  •  Link

"Now Montagu gets the Position"
I think we can pretty well say that Montagu didn't get S Morland's position as Clerk of the Signet. The original annotation was probably based on Montagu's own memory slip as recorded in the diary (May 4 1660 and June 6 1660). I can't say for sure who got the position since the online reference of office holders runs out with S. Morland (1656-?)…

Emilio  •  Link

In addition to signing off on Pepys's admission to Cambridge, Morland was also his tutor at Magdalene College according to Tomalin: "The college register for 21 October 1653 reads, in the hand of [Sam's] tutor Samuel Morland, 'Peapys and Hind were solemnly admonished by myself and Mr. Hill for having been scandalously overserved with drink the night before. This was done in the presence of the Fellows then resident, in Mr. Hill's Chamber'" (37).

That's our Sam . . .

Emilio  •  Link

The hapless Morland

In fact, he had an ongoing relationship with Pepys, and the contrast between their two careers in interesting. On the one hand Our Sam, living a life of unglamorous attention to detail and carefully managed rewards; on the other the anti-Sam, with much flash and glamour but a constant struggle for money. The L&M Companion entry is long and really brings Morland to life:

"Mathematician, inventor, and Pepys's tutor at Magdalene, where he was a Fellow from 1649-54. He left Cambridge for the public service and held a post under Secretary Thurloe. By the summer of 1659 he was passing information to the royalists abroad. His reward at the Restoration was a knighthood, a baronetcy, a pension and a place in the Privy Chamber. But nothing went right with him: he passed the rest of his life 'in a state of perpetual and clamorous impecuniosity' (Bryant). He sold his English pension; for a while after 1668 he acquired a French one. He lived in the '60s in Pall Mall; moved to Bloomsbury, later to Vauxhall, and by 1687 was living in what he called a 'hut' by Hyde Park gate. He produced inventions by the dozen, but could not invent a means of staying solvent. The most interesting of his inventions, technically, was his calculating machine. The most important, politically, was a device for opening and resealing letters--much used by the Post Office until the instruments were destroyed, with the Post Office building, in the Fire. He pressed on Pepys and the Admiralty several varieties of water pump, each better than the last, and a design for naval gun carriages. For his own delight he contrived indoor fountains, a portable cooking stove and a mechanical glyster with which he could administer an enema to himself without getting out of bed [!]. To pay his debts he fell back in 1687 on the oldest contrivance of all: he married, as he thought, an heiress--but she turned out to be an adventuress who was scheming to saddle him with her debts and her bastard. He managed to get rid of her after a few years by divorce, since she had set herself up as the mistress of Sir Gilbert Gerard, feeling cheated of her expectations. He told the whole tragic-comedy in a series of letters to Pepys, in the hope that his old pupil would be able, through his influence with the Chancellor and the King, to expedite the legal proceedings."

Here's a portrait of him--and no wonder he has bags under his eyes:…

Augusto Buonafalce  •  Link

Morland also wrote a manual featuring several cryptographic methods including a cipher device used to perform an autokey. See Cryptologia article Sir Samuel Morland's Machina Cyclologica Cryptographica, Volume XXVIII, 3, July 2004.

Augusto Buonafalce  •  Link

Other references to Morland in the Diary:

1662 May 29th
1663 Aug 13th
1664 May 16th
Nov 25th
Dec 11th
1667 Sep 4th
Sep 16th
1669 Mar 14th
Apr 2nd

TerryF  •  Link

Cryptologia, Jul 2004 by Buonafalce, Augusto
ABSTRACT: A 17th century treatise featuring several cryptographic methods includes a cipher device used to perform an autokey.…

Wim van der Meij  •  Link

In 1663 (12th August) he was married to Susanne de Milleville, daughter of Daniel de Milleville, baron of Boessen in France, naturalized 1662. Morland survived a second and a third wife, both buried in Westminster Abbey.

Pedro  •  Link


From Emilio’s post above…

“The most important, politically, was a device for opening and resealing letters—much used by the Post Office until the instruments were destroyed, with the Post Office building, in the Fire.”

A summary from Intelligence and Espionage in the Reign of Charles II by Alan Marshall…

“In 1664 Morland went to see Arlington who told him that there was a method in Spain of sealing letters which were impossible to open without being discovered. He saw this as a challenge and undertook to examine a letter written by Arlington sealed in this fashion. This he did and returned it with three more sealed in the Spanish fashion. Arlington was startled to discover that he could not tell which was the original.

…After three months the King and Arlington visited him in his rooms to see the machines at work. For three hours they witness the counterfeiting of wax seals, wafers and “any handwriting whatever, so as not to be discovered by him who writes the original.”

…Charles gave orders that all these activities to be put into practice. They continued in use until the Great Fire of 1666 put an end to them."

Michael Robinson  •  Link

Cooper, Samuel (artist) 1609 - 1672
Portrait of Sir Samuel Morland, Bt
Miniature, Watercolour on vellum
ca. 1660-1661 (painted)
England (probably, painted)
V&A Museum number: 481-1903 Bequeathed by Mrs A. B. Woodcroft
Gallery location: Portrait Miniatures, room 90a, case 17…

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

At last, when the plot was laid among the Cavaliers for a general insurrection, the King was desired to come over to that which was to be raised in Sussex: He was to have landed near Chichester, all by Willis's management: And a snare was laid for him, in which he would probably have been caught, if Morland, Thurlo's under secretary, who was a prying man, had not discovered the correspondence between his Master and Willis, and warned the King of his danger. Yet it was not easy to persuade those who had trusted Willis so much, and who thought him faithful in all respects, to believe that he could be guilty of so black a treachery: So Morland's advertisement was look'd on as an artifice to create jealousy. But he to give a full conviction observed where the secretary laid some letters of advice, on which he saw he relied most, and getting the key of that cabinet in his hand to seal a letter with a seal that hung to it, he took the impression of it in wax, and got a key to be made from it, by which he opened the cabinet, and sent over some of the most important of those letters. The hand was known, and this artful but black treachery was discovered: So the design of the rising was laid aside. Sir George Booth having engaged at the same time to raise a body in Cheshire, two several messengers were sent to him to let him know the design could not be executed at the time appointed: But both these persons were inspected by some garrisons thro' which they must pass, as giving no good account of themselves in a time of jealousy, and were so long stopt, that they could not give him notice in time: So he very gallantly performed his part: But not being seconded he was soon crushed by Lambert.
---History of His Own Time, v.1. G.Burnet, 1724.

Bill  •  Link

Samuel Morland, of Sulhamsted Banister, in Berkshire, was some time one of the under secretaries to Thurloe. He was employed by the protector in several embassies, and was in 1657, his resident at Geneva. His "History of the Evangelical Churches of Piedmont" was published in folio, 1658, with his head prefixed. He was sent to Savoy, to forward the charitable collection made in England for the Vaudois, and found the conveyance very difficult, as their enemies were hovering round to intercept it. The method of expediting money by bills was then much less known than it is at present. In the beginning of the year 1660, he waited on the king at Breda, and made several important discoveries; and was, in consideration of his services, the same year created a baronet. In 1695, was published his "Urim of Conscience,"; and some account of himself. I know not when he died, but am certain that he lived to an advanced age, and was, in the latter part of his life, afflicted with blindness. His son was master of the mechanics to Charles II. He invented the drum-headed capstan for weighing heavy anchors, the speaking-trumpet, an engine for quenching fires, an arithmetical instrument, &c.
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1779.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Samuel Morland is said to have invented a device to open mail, but this study on the ways to seal letters used during the 17th century makes me doubt this.…...

Some points in case the link dies:

Jana Dambrogio has been studying “letterlocking,” the systems of folds, slits, and wax seals that protected communication before the invention of the envelope. Mary, Queen of Scots used a “butterfly lock”, one of hundreds of techniques catalogued by Dambrogio and her collaborator Daniel Starza Smith in a dictionary of letterlocking.

Letters were folded to serve as their own envelope. Depending on the security level, you might opt for the simple, triangular fold and tuck; or you might need the dagger-trap, a booby-trapped technique disguised as a less secure type of lock.

Dambrogio first recognized locked letters in 2000 in the Vatican Secret Archives. Her fellowship involved legal and accounting records from the 10th - 17th centuries, which were virtually untouched. By the end of the first week she noticed slits, authentication marks, beautiful wax seals, cut-off corners, and folds in books, and in books of papers.

Initially there was no word for what she was doing: her term “letterlocking” was adopted in 2009.

Evidence of letterlocking is hard to recreate in 3-dimensional objects. Even if the folds have been erased by years of flat storage, patterns of discoloration offer clues to which portion of the letter was on the outside.

Sometimes they have damaged examples, then find another that’s damaged in a different way, so it supplies the missing evidence.

Sometimes evidence is delivered in one box. In 2012, Yale researcher Rebekah Ahrendt found a trunk of undelivered letters, including 600 that were unopened. Preserved by The Hague’s postmasters, they came from the end of the 17th century and included mail from musicians, merchants, aristocrats, and spies.

The contents will take years to examine, but they have found links between these letters and others they’ve studied. Queen Elizabeth’s and John Donne’s letters and the ones in the trunk show the evolution of a technology.

Elizabeth and her spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham used a “triangle lock,” a technique later used by others. How did they know the same techniques? Did certain locks imply something about the content of the letter?

John Donne used 5 letterlocking styles, and one of them was never used by anyone else. He was known as the most inventive and witty poet of his times, and used the most inventive, brilliant letterlocking method. That is evidence there was something personal in the way they sealed letters.

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Samuel Morland played a vital role in bringing about the Restoration, which is probably why he was knighted by Charles II at The Hague. The story is part of an explanation of Montagu's about turn from Parliamentarian to Royalist; see…

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.





  • Sep