The invention of Jigsaw Puzzle

By Maryam Tabatabei

Maryam Tabatabei, PhD Candidate in the field of Biomedical Engineering at Polytechnique School of Montreal

Maryam Tabatabei, PhD Candidate in the field of Biomedical Engineering at Polytechnique School of Montreal

We all love to solve jigsaw puzzles, don’t we? But have you ever thought about what was the first jigsaw puzzle ever made?

Learning through playing game is a well known concept that plays an important role in teaching and education. There are some topics in science that are the least favorites because they are either “boring” or very “difficult” to memorize by heart. Of such topics, map geography was quite an intangible science back in the early 17th century because traveling and seeing the world was not an affordable lifestyle among common people [1].

One could say geography was the science of wealthy and royal families. The need of proper and effective teaching of this subject led a young brilliant mind to come up with the idea of jigsaw puzzles.

The spark of jigsaw puzzle was ignited when a young cartographer and engraver, John Spilsbury made and printed a world map on a piece of wood, then carved all countries out and asked students to arrange all the different pieces so that they would create the original form. He used this technique as an educational tool to teach geography. This was the first model of jigsaw puzzles [2].

Having a great feedback in his classroom, John Spilsbury saw the opportunity for commercializing his invention in the game industry, and therefore he began selling different puzzle themes around the world. Cardboard jigsaw puzzles soon replaced wooden ones in the late 1800s because of their lighter, cheaper, long­lasting and recyclable form [2]. As the the jigsaw puzzles evolved to become more complex and attractive to adults, it was used in advertising and product promotions to appeal customers [3].

In 17th century, many people looked at maps as painted on the walls and admired their beauty and magnificent scale of the world, but no one thought they could make a fortune out of it. What made it possible for John Spilsbury to own such a successful innovation was that he saw a “need”, then used his “skills and techniques” to come up with a “creative solution” and then he turned his idea into a business dream.

You can ask yourself now, what is it around you that might “need” a little bit of “creative touch” to make it “better”? All I could say it that never stop dreaming dreamer!

Good luck! 


[1]“HISTORY OF TRANSPORT AND TRAVEL”, http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?ParagraphID=kwq,etrieved 27 September 2015.

[2] Adam, Daniel. Story of Jigsaw Puzzles. American Jigsaw Puzzle Society. Retrieved: 27 September 2015.

[3] Williams, Anne D. Jigsaw Puzzles - A Brief History. www.mgcpuzzles.com. Retrieved: 27 September 2015.