Charles Babbage

Charles Babbage

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Charles Babbage was born in Teignmouth, Devon, in 1791. Educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, he spent most of his life trying to build calculating machines. The first of these was designed to calculate tables of logarithms and similar functions by repeated addition performed by gear wheels. A small prototype model of the difference engine was produced in 1822 and this resulted in him receiving a government grant to build a full-sized machine.

Influenced by the work of Joseph Jacquard in France, Babbage began to develop an analytical engine, a general purpose mechanical computing device for performing different calculations. This idea was later used to build the first electronic computer.

Babbage, who was professor of mathematics at Cambridge University from 1828 to 1839, and published the book, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures (1832).

Charles Babbage died in 1871.

Charles Babbage

Professor Charles Babbage was a British mathematician, an original and innovative thinker and a pioneer of computing.

Charles Babbage was born on 26 December 1791, probably in London, the son of a banker. He was often unwell as a child and was educated mainly at home. By the time he went to Cambridge University in 1810 he was very interested in mathematics.

After graduation Babbage was hired by the Royal Institution to lecture on calculus. Within two years he had been elected a member of the Royal Society and, with his Cambridge friends, was instrumental in setting up the Astronomical Society in 1820, the first to challenge the dominance of the Royal Society. From 1828 to 1839, Babbage was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge.

The 1820s saw Babbage work on his 'Difference Engine', a machine which could perform mathematical calculations. A six-wheeled model was initially constructed and demonstrated to a number of audiences. He then developed plans for a bigger, better, machine - Difference Engine 2. He also worked on another invention, the more complex Analytical Engine, a revolutionary device on which his fame as a computer pioneer now largely rests. It was intended to be able to perform any arithmetical calculation using punched cards that would deliver the instructions, as well as a memory unit to store numbers and many other fundamental components of today's computers. The remarkable British mathematician Ada Lovelace completed a program for the Analytical Engine but neither it, nor Difference Engine 2, were finished in Babbage's lifetime.

Babbage also worked in the fields of philosophy and code-breaking, as well as campaigning for reform in British science. He died at his home in London on 18 October 1871.

Magazine Articles Mentioning Charles Babbage :

Historical Timeline for Charles Babbage :

Date Event
1623 Wilhelm Schickard invented a calculating machine
26 Dec 1791 Charles Babbage is Born
10 Dec 1815 Ada, Lady Lovelace, is Born
1822 Charles Babbage takes first steps in the construction of machines that would compute numbers
5 Jun 1833 Ada Lovelace Meets Charles Babbage
Dec 1837 Charles Babbage published a paper describing a mechanical computer that is now known as the Analytical Engine
1883 Scheutz invents the first printing calculator
21 Jan 1888 Babbage's Analytical Engine Operates For The First Time

Babbage's birth & early life

Charles Babbage was born on 26 December 1791 and was most likely to have been born at 44 Crosby Row, Walworth Road, London, England. There is some dispute about the date of his birth because The Times newspaper in their obituary of him gave his date of birth as 1792, but as the local parish register shows he was baptised in early 1920, the date given in The Times is probably incorrect.

When the young Charles Babbage was eight years old he attended Alphington near Exeter to recover from ill-health and to receive schooling. Then he moved to King Edward VI Grammar School located in Totnes South Devon, but poor health meant he needed to be taught by private tutors.

The fact that the Babbage family was wealthy meant he was able to receive a considerable amount of private tutoring.

The next move in Babbage's education was to a small educational academy located in Enfield, in Middlesex just outside London. This institution had a library where Charles Babbage spent many long hours reading about mathematics - this is where his love of mathematics started to grow.

While Babbage was attending the academy, he was also being tutored by two other people - here he learned about the classic mathematical methods that enabled him to be admitted to Cambridge University.

The Analytical Engine

During his lifetime, Babbage was accused of being more interested in the theory and cutting edge of innovation than actually producing the tables the government was paying him to create. This wasn’t exactly unfair, because by the time the funding for the Difference Engine had evaporated, Babbage had come up with a new idea: the Analytical Engine. This was a massive step beyond the Difference Engine: it was a general-purpose device that could compute many different problems. It was to be digital, automatic, mechanical, and controlled by variable programs. In short, it would solve any calculation you wished. It would be the first computer.

The Analytical Engine had four parts:

  • A mill, which was the section that did the calculations (essentially the CPU)
  • The store, where the information was kept recorded (essentially the memory)
  • The reader, which would allow data to be entered using punched cards (essentially the keyboard)
  • The printer

The punch cards were modeled on those developed for the Jacquard loom and would allow the machine a greater flexibility than anything ever invented to do calculations. Babbage had grand ambitions for the device, and the store was supposed to hold 1,050 digit numbers. It would have a built-in ability to weigh up data and process instructions out of order if necessary. It would be steam-driven, made of brass, and require a trained operator/driver.

Babbage was aided by Ada Lovelace (1815–1852), daughter of the British poet Lord Byron and one of the few women of the era with an education in mathematics. Babbage greatly admired her published translation of a French article on Babbage's work, which included her voluminous notes.

The Engine was beyond what Babbage could afford and maybe what technology could then produce, but the government had grown exasperated with Babbage and funding was not forthcoming. Babbage continued to work on the project until he died in 1871, by many accounts an embittered man who felt more public funds should be directed towards the advancement of science. It might not have been finished, but the Analytical Engine was a breakthrough in imagination, if not practicality. Babbage’s engines were forgotten, and supporters had to struggle to keep him well regarded some members of the press found it easier to mock. When computers were invented in the twentieth century, the inventors did not use Babbage’s plans or ideas, and it was only in the seventies that his work was fully understood.

Charles Babbage Short History of.

I choose to research the man who originated the idea of a programmable computer. His name is Charles Babbage. This may sound boring as most of you might be expecting names like Mr. Jobs or Mr. Gates. But without Sir Charles, you will never be reading this paper today as personal computers may never exist at all. Here are some important facts that I have compiled about the man: Charles Babbage (26 December 1791 – 18 October 1871) was an English mathematician, philosopher, and mechanical engineer.

He was known to some as the “Father of Computing” for his contributions to the basic design of the computer through his Analytical machine ( replica shown in the picture below). His previous Difference Engine was a special purpose device intended for the production of tables. Babbage originated the modern analytic computer. By 1834 he invented the principle of the analytical engine, the forerunner of the modern electronic computer. Parts of his uncompleted mechanisms are on display in the London Science Museum.

In 1991 a perfectly functioning difference engine was constructed from Babbage’s original plans. Built to tolerances achievable in the 19th century, the success of the finished engine indicated that Babbage’s machine would have worked. Nine years later, the Science Museum completed the printer Babbage had designed for the difference engine, an astonishingly complex device for the 19th century. Babbage has been commemorated by a number of references, as shown on this list.

In particular, Babbage crater, on the Moon and the Charles Babbage Institute, an information technology archive and research center, were named after him. The large Babbage lecture theatre at Cambridge University, used for undergraduate science lectures, commemorates his time at the school. Other inventions: The cowcatcher, dynamometer, standard railroad gauge, uniform postal rates, occulting lights for lighthouses, Greenwich time signals, heliograph opthalmoscope.

He also had an interest in cyphers and lock-picking, but abhorred street musicians. Quotes: “Another Age must be the Judge” Webliography http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Charles_Babbage Very useful site for general history and overview on a subject. http://www. computerhistory. org/babbage/ Detailed information about Babbage his inventions, how they work and his legacy. Highly interesting material. http://www. ideafinder. com/history/inventors/babbage. htm Good information about Babbage and his ideas.

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The Analytical Engine, a True Computer

By 1834, Babbage had ceased work on the Difference Engine and began to plan for a larger and more comprehensive machine he called the Analytical Engine. Babbage's new machine was an enormous step forward. Capable of calculating more than one mathematical task, it was truly to be what we call “programmable” today.

Much like modern computers, Babbage’s Analytical Engine included an arithmetic logic unit, control flow in the form of conditional branching and loops, and integrated memory. Like the Jacquard loom, which had inspired Babbage years earlier, his Analytical Engine was to be programmed to perform calculations via punched cards. Results—output—would be provided on a printer, a curve plotter, and a bell.

Called the “store,” the Analytical Engine’s memory was to be capable of holding 1,000 numbers of 40 decimal digits each. The engine’s “mill,” like the arithmetic logic unit (ALU) in modern computers, was to be capable of performing all four basic arithmetic operations, plus comparisons and optionally square roots. Similar to a modern computer’s central processing unit (CPU), the mill was to rely on its own internal procedures to carry out the program’s instructions. Babbage even created a programming language to be used with the Analytical Engine. Similar to modern programming languages, it allowed for instruction looping and conditional branching.

Due largely to a lack of funding, Babbage was never able to construct full working versions of any of his calculating machines. Not until 1941, over a century after Babbage had proposed his Analytical Engine, would German mechanical engineer Konrad Zuse demonstrate his Z3, the world's first working programmable computer.

In 1878, even after declaring Babbage’s Analytical Engine to be "a marvel of mechanical ingenuity,” the executive committee of the British Association for the Advancement of Science recommended that it not be constructed. While it acknowledged the usefulness and value of the machine, the committee balked at the estimated cost of building it without any guarantee that it would work correctly.

Babbage embarked on an ambitious venture to design and build mechanical calculating engines to eliminate the risk of human error in the production of printed tables. The 'unerring certainty of machinery' would solve the problem of human fallibility. His work on the engines led him from mechanized arithmetic to the entirely new realm of automatic computation. Tabular errors provided a practical stimulus. But this was not his only motive. He also saw his engines as a new technology of mathematics.

Babbage himself failed to build a complete calculating engine and his designs remained a historical curiosity for over 150 years. Finally, in 2002, the first full-size Babbage Engine (Difference Engine No. 2), built faithfully to the original designs, was completed at the Science Museum in London, the culmination of a seventeen year project. The Engine consists of 8,000 parts, weighs 5 tons and measures eleven feet long and seven feet high. It works as Babbage intended, and brings to a close an anguished chapter in the prehistory of computing.

A duplicate engine is on display and demonstrated at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. It is a sumptuous piece of engineering sculpture and an arresting sight in operation.


"Some of my critics have amused their readers with the wildness of the schemes I have occasionally thrown out and I myself have sometimes smiled along with them. Perhaps it were wiser for present reputation to offer nothing but profoundly meditated plans, but I do not think knowledge will be most advanced by that course such sparks may kindle the energies of other minds more favorably circumstanced for pursuing the enquiries." (On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, 1832, preface to second edition)

"Every moment dies a man / Every moment 1 1 /16 is born." (A correction to Tennyson's "Every moment a man dies/Every moment one is born.")

"If unwarned by my example, any man shall undertake and shall succeed in really constructing an engine . upon difference principles or by simpler means, I have no fear of leaving my reputation in his charge, for he alone will be fully able to appreciate the nature of my efforts and the value of their results." [Quoted in the Babbage exhibit at the Science Museum, Kensington attributed to Babbage in 1864.]

I've stumbled across several variants in the spelling of my Babbage ancestors through the years. In fact, my first discovery of the surname was on a birth certificate where it was spelt as Babbidge. Here's my list of variants so far:

As you can see, there's a few interesting interpretations of the surname, and I wonder how much illiteracy and accent plays a role in adding or subtracting from this (the 'Babago' variant sounds particularly exotic).

Babbage family connections

The Babbage family provide me with links to a number of other ancestral families:

Other interests

Babbage managed to squeeze in an incredible variety of activities between dealing with the government and working on his engines. In addition to other subjects, he wrote several articles on mathematics, the decline of science in England, the rationalization of manufacturing processes, religion, archeology, tool design, and submarine navigation. He helped found the Astronomical Society, which later became the Royal Astronomical Society, as well as other organizations. He was Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge for ten years. He was better known, though, for his seemingly endless campaign against organ-grinders (people who produce music by cranking a hand organ) on the streets of London.

He always returned to his great engines𠅋ut none were ever finished. He died on October 18, 1871, having played a major part in the nineteenth-century rebirth of British science.

Watch the video: Mην ξεχνάς - Charles Bukowski Τσαρλς Μπουκόφσκι (May 2022).