Charles Babbage (; 26 December 1791 – 18 October 1871) was an English
polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, , "having learned much"; la, homo universalis, "universal human") is an individual whose knowledge spans a substantial number of subjects, known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific prob ...

. A mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer, Babbage originated the concept of a digital programmable computer. Babbage is considered by some to be " father of the computer". Babbage is credited with inventing the first
mechanical computer A mechanical computer is built from mechanical components such as lever A lever ( or ) is a simple machine consisting of a beam (structure), beam or rigid rod pivoted at a fixed hinge, or '':wikt:fulcrum, fulcrum''. A lever is a rigid body capa ...
, the
Difference Engine A difference engine is an automatic mechanical calculator designed to tabulate polynomial, polynomial functions. It was designed in the 1820s, and was first created by Charles Babbage. The name, the difference engine, is derived from the method ...
, that eventually led to more complex electronic designs, though all the essential ideas of modern computers are to be found in Babbage's
Analytical Engine The Analytical Engine was a proposed mechanical general-purpose computer designed by English mathematician and computer pioneer Charles Babbage. It was first described in 1837 as the successor to Babbage's difference engine, which was a des ...
, programmed using a principle openly borrowed from the
Jacquard loom The Jacquard machine () is a device fitted to a loom A loom is a device used to weave cloth and tapestry. The basic purpose of any loom is to hold the warp threads under tension Tension may refer to: Science * Psychological stress * Tensi ...

Jacquard loom
. Babbage had a broad range of interests in addition to his work on computers covered in his book ''Economy of Manufactures and Machinery''. His varied work in other fields has led him to be described as "pre-eminent" among the many polymaths of his century. Babbage, who died before the complete successful engineering of many of his designs, including his Difference Engine and Analytical Engine, remained a prominent figure in the ideating of computing. Parts of Babbage's incomplete mechanisms are on display in the
Science Museum A science museum is a museum A museum ( ; plural museums or, rarely, musea) is a building or institution that Preservation (library and archival science), cares for and displays a collection (artwork), collection of artifacts and other ...

Science Museum
in London. In 1991, a functioning
difference engine A difference engine is an automatic mechanical calculator designed to tabulate polynomial, polynomial functions. It was designed in the 1820s, and was first created by Charles Babbage. The name, the difference engine, is derived from the method ...
was constructed from Babbage's original plans. Built to
tolerances Engineering tolerance is the permissible limit or limits of variation in: # a physical dimension; # a measured value or physical property of a material, manufacturing, manufactured object, system, or service; # other measured values (such as temp ...
achievable in the 19th century, the success of the finished engine indicated that Babbage's machine would have worked.

Early life

Babbage's birthplace is disputed, but according to the ''
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography The ''Dictionary of National Biography'' (''DNB'') is a standard work of reference on notable figures from British history The British Isles The British Isles are a group of islands in the North Atlantic off the north-western coast o ...
'' he was most likely born at 44 Crosby Row,
Walworth Road The A215 is an A roads in Great Britain, A road in south London, starting at Elephant and Castle and finishing around Shirley, London, Shirley. It runs through the London Boroughs of London Borough of Lambeth, Lambeth, London Borough of Southwa ...
, London, England. A blue plaque on the junction of Larcom Street and Walworth Road commemorates the event. His date of birth was given in his obituary in ''
The Times ''The Times'' is a British daily Daily or The Daily may refer to: Journalism * Daily newspaper A newspaper is a Periodical literature, periodical publication containing written News, information about current events and is often ty ...
'' as 26 December 1792; but then a nephew wrote to say that Babbage was born one year earlier, in 1791. The parish register of St. Mary's, Newington, London, shows that Babbage was
baptised Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian rite of initiation, admission and Adoption (theology), adoption, almost invariably with the use of water, into Christianity. It may be pe ...

on 6 January 1792, supporting a birth year of 1791. Babbage was one of four children of Benjamin Babbage and Betsy Plumleigh Teape. His father was a banking partner of
William Praed William Praed (24 June 1747 – 9 October 1833) was an English businessman, banker, and politician who sat in the House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house of the bicameral parliaments of the United Kingdom a ...
in founding Praed's & Co. of
Fleet Street Fleet Street is a major street mostly in the City of London. It runs west to east from Temple Bar, London, Temple Bar at the boundary with the City of Westminster to Ludgate Circus at the site of the London Wall and the River Fleet from which ...

Fleet Street
, London, in 1801. In 1808, the Babbage family moved into the old Rowdens house in East Teignmouth. Around the age of eight, Babbage was sent to a country school in Alphington near Exeter to recover from a life-threatening fever. For a short time, he attended King Edward VI Grammar School in
Totnes Totnes ( or ) is a market town A market town is a European that obtained by custom or royal charter, in the , a market right, which allowed it to host a regular ; this distinguished it from a or . In Britain, small rural towns with a ...
, South Devon, but his health forced him back to private tutors for a time. Babbage then joined the 30-student Holmwood Academy, in Baker Street,
Enfield Enfield may refer to: Places Australia * Enfield, New South Wales * Enfield, South Australia ** Electoral district of Enfield, a state electoral district in South Australia, corresponding to the suburb ** Enfield High School (South Australia) * ...
Middlesex Middlesex (; abbreviation: Middx) is a Historic counties of England, historic county in South East England, southeast England. Its area is almost entirely within the wider urbanised area of London and mostly within the Ceremonial counties of En ...

, under the Reverend Stephen Freeman. The academy had a library that prompted Babbage's love of mathematics. He studied with two more private tutors after leaving the academy. The first was a clergyman near
Cambridge Cambridge ( ) is a College town, university city and the county town of Cambridgeshire, England, on the River Cam approximately north of London. At the United Kingdom Census 2011, the population of the Cambridge built-up area (which is larger ...

; through him Babbage encountered
Charles Simeon Charles Simeon (24 September 1759 – 13 November 1836), was an English Evangelical Anglicanism, evangelical Anglican clergyman. Biography He was born at Reading, Berkshire in 1759 and baptised in St Laurence's Church, Reading, St Laurence's par ...
and his evangelical followers, but the tuition was not what he needed. He was brought home, to study at the Totnes school: this was at age 16 or 17. The second was an
Oxford Oxford () is a city in England. It is the county town and only city of Oxfordshire. In 2017, its population was estimated at 152,450. It is northwest of London, southeast of Birmingham, and northeast of Bristol. The city is home to the Unive ...
tutor, under whom Babbage reached a level in Classics sufficient to be accepted by the University of Cambridge.

At the University of Cambridge

Babbage arrived at
Trinity College, Cambridge Trinity College is a constituent college A collegiate university is a university A university ( la, universitas, 'a whole') is an educational institution, institution of higher education, higher (or Tertiary education, tertiary) education ...
, in October 1810. He was already self-taught in some parts of contemporary mathematics; he had read in
Robert Woodhouse Robert Woodhouse (28 April 1773 – 23 December 1827) was an English mathematician. Biography He was born at Norwich, the son of Robert Woodhouse, linen draper, and educated at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, (BA 1795) of which society he ...
Joseph Louis Lagrange Joseph-Louis Lagrange (born Giuseppe Luigi Lagrangia
, and
Marie Agnesi Maria Gaetana Agnesi ( , , ; 16 May 1718 – 9 January 1799) was an Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Ita ...
. As a result, he was disappointed in the standard mathematical instruction available at the university. Babbage,
John Herschel Sir John Frederick William Herschel, 1st Baronet (; 7 March 1792 – 11 May 1871) was an English polymath active as a mathematician, astronomer, chemist, inventor, experimental photographer who invented the blueprint, and did botanical wor ...
George Peacock George Peacock FRS (9 April 1791 – 8 November 1858) was an English mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as ...

George Peacock
, and several other friends formed the
Analytical SocietyThe Analytical Society was a group of individuals in early-19th-century Britain Britain usually refers to: * United Kingdom, a sovereign state in Europe comprising the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many ...
in 1812; they were also close to Edward Ryan.Wilkes (2002) ''p.''355 As a student, Babbage was also a member of other societies such as
The Ghost Club The Ghost Club is a paranormal investigation and research organization, founded in London in 1862.Peter Underwood (1978) "Dictionary of the Supernatural", Harrap Ltd., London, , Page 144 It is widely believed to be the oldest such organization in ...
, concerned with investigating supernatural phenomena, and the Extractors Club, dedicated to liberating its members from the madhouse, should any be committed to one. In 1812, Babbage transferred to
Peterhouse, Cambridge Peterhouse is the oldest constituent college A collegiate university is a university A university ( la, universitas, 'a whole') is an educational institution, institution of higher education, higher (or Tertiary education, tertiary) educa ...
. He was the top mathematician there, but did not graduate with honours. He instead received a degree without examination in 1814. He had defended a thesis that was considered blasphemous in the preliminary public disputation, but it is not known whether this fact is related to his not sitting the examination.

After Cambridge

Considering his reputation, Babbage quickly made progress. He lectured to the
Royal Institution The Royal Institution of Great Britain (often the Royal Institution, abbreviated 'Ri' or 'RI') is an organisation for scientific education and research, based in the City of Westminster The City of Westminster is a City status in the Unite ...

Royal Institution
on astronomy in 1815, and was elected a
Fellow of the Royal Society Fellowship of the Royal Society (FRS, ForMemRS and HonFRS) is an award granted by the judges of the Royal Society The Royal Society, formally The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, is a and the 's national . Found ...
in 1816. After graduation, on the other hand, he applied for positions unsuccessfully, and had little in the way of career. In 1816 he was a candidate for a teaching job at
Haileybury CollegeHaileybury may refer to: Australia * Haileybury (Melbourne) (Lift up your hearts) , established = 1892 , type = Independent school, Independent, co-educational, day school , denomination = , slogan ...

Haileybury College
; he had recommendations from
James Ivory James Francis Ivory (born June 7, 1928) is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. For many years, he worked extensively with Indian-born film producer Ismail Merchant, his domestic as well as professional partner, and with screen ...
John Playfair John Playfair FRSE, FRS (10 March 1748 – 20 July 1819) was a Church of Scotland minister, remembered as a scientist and mathematician, and a professor of natural philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. He is best known for his book ''Ill ...

John Playfair
, but lost out to Henry Walter. In 1819, Babbage and Herschel visited Paris and the Society of Arcueil, meeting leading French mathematicians and physicists. That year Babbage applied to be professor at the
University of Edinburgh The University of Edinburgh ( sco, University o Edinburgh, gd, Oilthigh Dhùn Èideann; abbreviated as ''Edin.'' in post-nominals Post-nominal letters, also called post-nominal initials, post-nominal titles, designatory letters or simply ...
, with the recommendation of
Pierre Simon Laplace Pierre-Simon, marquis de Laplace (; ; 23 March 1749 – 5 March 1827) was a French scholar A scholar is a person who pursues academic and intellectual activities, particularly those that develop expertise in an area of Studying, study. A ...
; the post went to
William Wallace Sir William Wallace ( gd, Uilleam Uallas, ; Anglo-Norman language, Norman French: ; 23 August 1305) was a Kingdom of Scotland, Scottish knight who became one of the main leaders during the First War of Scottish Independence. Along with Andrew ...
. With Herschel, Babbage worked on the
electrodynamics Electromagnetism is a branch of physics involving the study of the electromagnetic force, a type of physical interaction that occurs between electric charge, electrically charged particles. The electromagnetic force is carried by electromagneti ...

Arago's rotationsArago's rotations is an observable magnetic phenomenon that involves the interactions between a magnetized needle and a moving metal disk. The effect was discovered by François Arago in 1824. At the time of their discovery, Arago's rotations were su ...
, publishing in 1825. Their explanations were only transitional, being picked up and broadened by
Michael Faraday Michael Faraday (; 22 September 1791 – 25 August 1867) was an English scientist A scientist is a person who conducts scientific research The scientific method is an Empirical evidence, empirical method of acquiring knowledge ...

Michael Faraday
. The phenomena are now part of the theory of eddy currents, and Babbage and Herschel missed some of the clues to unification of
electromagnetic theory Electromagnetism is a branch of physics involving the study of the electromagnetic force, a type of physical interaction that occurs between electric charge, electrically charged particles. The electromagnetic force is carried by electromagneti ...
, staying close to
Ampère's force law In magnetostatics, the force of attraction or repulsion between two current-carrying wires (see first figure below) is often called Ampère's force law. The physical origin of this force is that each wire generates a magnetic field, following t ...
. Babbage purchased the actuarial tables of George Barrett, who died in 1821 leaving unpublished work, and surveyed the field in 1826 in ''Comparative View of the Various Institutions for the Assurance of Lives''. This interest followed a project to set up an insurance company, prompted by
Francis Baily Francis Baily (28 April 177430 August 1844) was an English astronomer An astronomer is a scientist in the field of astronomy who focuses their studies on a specific question or field outside the scope of Earth. They observe astronomical obje ...
and mooted in 1824, but not carried out. Babbage did calculate actuarial tables for that scheme, using Equitable Society mortality data from 1762 onwards. During this whole period, Babbage depended awkwardly on his father's support, given his father's attitude to his early marriage, of 1814: he and Edward Ryan wedded the Whitmore sisters. He made a home in
Marylebone Marylebone (usually , also , , , ) is a district in the West End of London The West End of London (commonly referred to as the West End) is a district of Central London Central London is the innermost part of London London is th ...
in London and established a large family. On his father's death in 1827, Babbage inherited a large estate (value around £100,000, equivalent to £ or $ today), making him independently wealthy. After his wife's death in the same year he spent time travelling. In Italy he met
Leopold II, Grand Duke of Tuscany Leopold II ( it, Leopoldo Giovanni Giuseppe Francesco Ferdinando Carlo, german: Leopold Johann Joseph Franz Ferdinand Karl, English: ''Leopold John Joseph Francis Ferdinand Charles''. (3 October 1797 – 29 January 1870), was Grand Duke of Tusca ...
, foreshadowing a later visit to
Piedmont it, Piemontese , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = , demographics1_footnotes = , demographics1_title1 = , demographics1_info1 = , demographics1_title2 ...

. In April 1828 he was in
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg , map_caption = The te ...

, and relying on Herschel to manage the difference engine project, when he heard that he had become a professor at Cambridge, a position he had three times failed to obtain (in 1820, 1823 and 1826).

Royal Astronomical Society

Babbage was instrumental in founding the
Royal Astronomical Society (Whatever shines should be observed) , predecessor = , successor = , formation = , founder = , extinction = , merger = , merged = , type = NGO, learned society A learned society (; also ...
in 1820, initially known as the Astronomical Society of London. Its original aims were to reduce astronomical calculations to a more standard form, and to circulate data. These directions were closely connected with Babbage's ideas on computation, and in 1824 he won its
Gold Medal A gold medal is a medal Medal depicting Herbert C. Hoover by Devreese Godefroi A medal or medallion is a small portable artistic object, a thin disc, normally of metal, carrying a design, usually on both sides. They typically have a comm ...
, cited "for his invention of an engine for calculating
mathematical Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities and their changes (cal ...
astronomical tables In astronomy and celestial navigation, an ephemeris (plural: ephemerides) gives the trajectory of naturally occurring astronomical objects as well as artificial satellites in the sky, i.e., the Position (vector), position (and possibly velocity) o ...
". Babbage's motivation to overcome errors in tables by mechanisation had been a commonplace since
Dionysius Lardner Professor Dionysius Lardner FRS FRSE Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE) is an award granted to individuals that the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland's national academy of science and Literature, letters, judged to be "e ...

Dionysius Lardner
wrote about it in 1834 in the ''
Edinburgh Review The ''Edinburgh Review'' is the title of four distinct intellectual and cultural magazine A magazine is a periodical literature, periodical publication which is printing, printed in Coated paper, gloss-coated and Paint sheen, matte paper. Mag ...
'' (under Babbage's guidance). The context of these developments is still debated. Babbage's own account of the origin of the difference engine begins with the Astronomical Society's wish to improve ''
The Nautical Almanac ''The Nautical Almanac'' has been the familiar name for a series of official British almanacs An almanac (also spelled ''almanack'' and ''almanach'') is an annual publicationAnnual publications, more often simply called annuals, are periodical p ...
''. Babbage and Herschel were asked to oversee a trial project, to recalculate some part of those tables. With the results to hand, discrepancies were found. This was in 1821 or 1822, and was the occasion on which Babbage formulated his idea for mechanical computation. The issue of the ''Nautical Almanac'' is now described as a legacy of a polarisation in British science caused by attitudes to
Sir Joseph Banks Sir Joseph Banks, 1st Baronet, (19 June 1820) was an English naturalist Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, including animals, fungus, fungi, and plants, in their natural environment, leaning more towards observat ...
, who had died in 1820. Babbage studied the requirements to establish a modern
postal system The mail or post is a system for physically transporting postcard A postcard or post card is a piece of thick paper or thin Card stock, cardboard, typically rectangular, intended for writing and mailing without an envelope. Non-rectangular s ...
, with his friend
Thomas Frederick Colby Thomas Frederick Colby Royal Society of London, FRS FRSE FGS FRGS (1 September 17849 October 1852), was a Kingdom of Great Britain, British major-general and director of the Ordnance Survey, Ordnance Survey (OS). A Fellow of the Royal Astronomica ...
, concluding there should be a uniform rate that was put into effect with the introduction of the
Uniform Fourpenny Post The Uniform Fourpenny Post was a short-lived uniform pre-paid letter rate in United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland that lasted for 36 days from 5 December 1839 until 9 January 1840. The Uniform Fourpenny Post was the first component of the com ...
supplanted by the
Uniform Penny Post The Uniform Penny Post was a component of the comprehensive reform of the Royal Mail Royal Mail Group plc is a British multinational mail, postal service and courier company, originally established in 1516 as a department of the English governm ...
in 1839 and 1840. Colby was another of the founding group of the Society. He was also in charge of the Survey of Ireland. Herschel and Babbage were present at a celebrated operation of that survey, the remeasuring of the
Lough Foyle Lough Foyle, sometimes Loch Foyle ( or "loch of the lip"), is the estuary An estuary is a partially enclosed Coast, coastal body of brackish water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea. E ...

British Lagrangian School

The Analytical Society had initially been no more than an undergraduate provocation. During this period it had some more substantial achievements. In 1816 Babbage, Herschel and Peacock published a translation from French of the lectures of
Sylvestre LacroixSylvestre, is a Given name of Latin origin derived from ''Silva'' (meaning the forest). Sylvestre can refer to: People Surname * Alain Sylvestre (born 1979), professional Canadian kickboxer * Anne Sylvestre (born 1934), French singer * Armand Syl ...
, which was then the state-of-the-art calculus textbook. Reference to
Lagrange Joseph-Louis Lagrange (born Giuseppe Luigi LagrangiaRoman_Forum.html" ;"title="Curia Julia in the Roman Forum">Curia Julia in the Roman Forum A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or Debating chamber, chamber of a bicame ...
in calculus terms marks out the application of what are now called
formal power series In mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers ( and ), formulas and related structures (), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (), and quantities and their changes ( and ). There is no gener ...
. British mathematicians had used them from about 1730 to 1760. As re-introduced, they were not simply applied as notations in
differential calculus In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). I ...
. They opened up the fields of
functional equation In mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities and the ...
s (including the
difference equation In mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities and th ...
s fundamental to the difference engine) and operator (
D-module In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It h ...
) methods for
differential equation In mathematics, a differential equation is an equation In mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers ( and ), formulas and related structures (), shapes and spaces in which they are contained ( ...

differential equation
s. The analogy of difference and differential equations was notationally changing Δ to D, as a "finite" difference becomes "infinitesimal". These symbolic directions became popular, as
operational calculusOperational calculus, also known as operational analysis, is a technique by which problems in analysis, in particular differential equation In mathematics, a differential equation is an equation that relates one or more function (mathematics), fun ...
, and pushed to the point of diminishing returns. The Cauchy concept of limit was kept at bay. Woodhouse had already founded this second "British Lagrangian School" with its treatment of
Taylor series In mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities an ...
as formal. In this context
function composition In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). ...
is complicated to express, because the chain rule is not simply applied to second and higher derivatives. This matter was known to Woodhouse by 1803, who took from Louis François Antoine Arbogast what is now called Faà di Bruno's formula. In essence it was known to
Abraham De Moivre Abraham de Moivre (; 26 May 166727 November 1754) was a French mathematician known for de Moivre's formula, a formula that links complex number In mathematics, a complex number is a number that can be expressed in the form , where and are r ...

Abraham De Moivre
(1697). Herschel found the method impressive, Babbage knew of it, and it was later noted by
Ada Lovelace Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (''née__NOTOC__ A birth name is the name of the person given upon their birth. The term may be applied to the surname In some cultures, a surname, family name, or last name is the portion of one's ...

Ada Lovelace
as compatible with the analytical engine. In the period to 1820 Babbage worked intensively on functional equations in general, and resisted both conventional
finite difference A finite difference is a mathematical expression of the form . If a finite difference is divided by , one gets a difference quotient. The approximation of derivatives by finite differences plays a central role in finite difference methods for the ...
s and Arbogast's approach (in which Δ and D were related by the simple additive case of the ). But via Herschel he was influenced by Arbogast's ideas in the matter of
iteration Iteration is the repetition of a process in order to generate a (possibly unbounded) sequence of outcomes. Each repetition of the process is a single iteration, and the outcome of each iteration is then the starting point of the next iteration. ...
, i.e. composing a function with itself, possibly many times. Writing in a major paper on functional equations in the ''
Philosophical Transactions ''Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society'' is a scientific journal In academic publishing Academic publishing is the subfield of publishing Publishing is the activity of making information, literature, music, software and o ...
'' (1815/6), Babbage said his starting point was work of
Gaspard Monge Gaspard Monge, Comte de Péluse (9 May 1746 – 28 July 1818) was a French mathematician, commonly presented as the inventor of descriptive geometry, (the mathematical basis of) technical drawing Technical drawing, drafting or drawing, i ...

Gaspard Monge


From 1828 to 1839, Babbage was
Lucasian Professor of Mathematics The Lucasian Chair of Mathematics () is a mathematics professorship in the University of Cambridge, England; its holder is known as the Lucasian Professor. The post was founded in 1663 by Henry Lucas (politician), Henry Lucas, who was Cambridge Uni ...
at Cambridge. Not a conventional resident
don Don, don or DON and variants may refer to: Places *Don, BeninDon is a town in Benin, Africa. It has a population of 696,969. Nearest large airports are Cadjehoun Airport, Cotonou Cadjehoun in Cotonou and Lomé-Tokoin Airport, Lomé-Tokoin in Lom ...
, and inattentive to his teaching responsibilities, he wrote three topical books during this period of his life. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the
American Academy of Arts and Sciences The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, founded 1780, (abbreviation: AAAS) is one of the oldest learned societies A learned society (; also known as a learned academy, scholarly society, or academic association) is an organization ...

American Academy of Arts and Sciences
in 1832. Babbage was out of sympathy with colleagues:
George Biddell Airy Sir George Biddell Airy (; 27 July 18012 January 1892) was an English mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics a ...

George Biddell Airy
, his predecessor as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge, thought an issue should be made of his lack of interest in lecturing. Babbage planned to lecture in 1831 on
political economy Political economy is the study of production Production may be: Economics and business * Production (economics) * Production, the act of manufacturing goods * Production, in the outline of industrial organization, the act of making products ( ...
. Babbage's reforming direction looked to see
university education Higher education is tertiary education leading to award of an academic degree. Higher education, also called post-secondary education, third-level or tertiary education, is an optional final stage of formal learning Formal learning is educati ...
more inclusive, universities doing more for research, a broader syllabus and more interest in applications; but
William Whewell William Whewell ( ; 24 May 17946 March 1866) was an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval En ...

William Whewell
found the programme unacceptable. A controversy Babbage had with Richard Jones lasted for six years. He never did give a lecture. It was during this period that Babbage tried to enter politics.
Simon Schaffer Simon J. Schaffer (born 1 January 1955) is a professor of the history and philosophy of science The history and philosophy of science (HPS) is an academic discipline An academic discipline or academic field is a subdivision of knowledge ...
writes that his views of the 1830s included
disestablishment The separation of church and state is a philosophic and jurisprudential concept for defining political distance in the relationship between religious organizations Religious activities generally need some infrastructure to be conducted. F ...
of the
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is a Christian church Christian Church is a Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Critic ...
, a broader political franchise, and inclusion of manufacturers as stakeholders. He twice stood for Parliament as a candidate for the borough of
Finsbury Finsbury is a district of Central London, forming the south-eastern part of the London Borough of Islington. It borders the City of London. The Manorialism, Manor of Finsbury is first recorded as ''Vinisbir'' (1231) and means "manor of a man ...
. In 1832 he came in third among five candidates, missing out by some 500 votes in the two-member constituency when two other reformist candidates,
Thomas Wakley Thomas Wakley (11 July 179516 May 1862) was an English surgeon. He gained fame as a social reformer who campaigned against incompetence, privilege and nepotism. He was the founding editor of ''The Lancet'', a radical Member of Parliament (MP) a ...

Thomas Wakley
and Christopher Temple, split the vote. In his memoirs Babbage related how this election brought him the friendship of
Samuel Rogers Samuel Rogers (30 July 1763 – 18 December 1855) was an English poetry, English poet, during his lifetime one of the most celebrated, although his fame has long since been eclipsed by his Romanticism, Romantic colleagues and friends Wordsworth, ...

Samuel Rogers
: his brother Henry Rogers wished to support Babbage again, but died within days. In 1834 Babbage finished last among four. In 1832, Babbage, Herschel and Ivory were appointed Knights of the
Royal Guelphic Order The Royal Guelphic Order (german: Guelphen-Orden), sometimes referred to as the Hanoverian Guelphic Order, is a House of Hanover, Hanoverian order of chivalry instituted on 28 April 1815 by the George IV of the United Kingdom, Prince Regent (la ...

Royal Guelphic Order
, however they were not subsequently made
knights bachelor The title of Knight Bachelor is the basic rank granted to a man who has been knight A knight is a person granted an honorary title A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in certain contexts. It may signify ...
to entitle them to the prefix ''Sir'', which often came with appointments to that foreign order (though Herschel was later created a
baronet A baronet ( or ; abbreviated Bart or Bt) or the rare female equivalent, a baronetess (, , or ; abbreviation Btss), is the holder of a baronetcy, a hereditary title awarded by the British Crown The Crown is the in all its aspects within ...


"Declinarians", learned societies and the BAAS

Babbage now emerged as a
polemicist Polemic () is contentious rhetoric Rhetoric () is the art Art is a diverse range of (products of) human activities involving creative imagination to express technical proficiency, beauty, emotional power, or conceptual ideas. The ...
. One of his biographers notes that all his books contain a "campaigning element". His ''Reflections on the Decline of Science and some of its Causes'' (1830) stands out, however, for its sharp attacks. It aimed to improve British science, and more particularly to oust
Davies Gilbert Davies Gilbert (born Davies Giddy, 6 March 1767 – 24 December 1839) was a Cornish engineer, author, and politician. He was elected to the Royal Society on 17 November 1791 and served as President of the Royal Society from 1827 to 1830. He chan ...
as President of the Royal Society, which Babbage wished to reform. It was written out of pique, when Babbage hoped to become the junior secretary of the Royal Society, as Herschel was the senior, but failed because of his antagonism to
Humphry Davy Sir Humphry Davy, 1st Baronet (17 December 177829 May 1829) was a Cornish Cornish is the adjective and demonym associated with Cornwall, the most southwesterly part of the United Kingdom. It may refer to: * Cornish language, a Brittonic South ...

Humphry Davy
. Michael Faraday had a reply written, by Gerrit Moll, as ''On the Alleged Decline of Science in England'' (1831). On the front of the Royal Society Babbage had no impact, with the bland election of the
Duke of Sussex Duke is a male title either of a monarch ruling over a duchy, or of a member of Royal family, royalty, or nobility. As rulers, dukes are ranked below emperors, kings, grand princes, grand dukes, and sovereign princes. As royalty or nobility, t ...
to succeed Gilbert the same year. As a broad manifesto, on the other hand, his ''Decline'' led promptly to the formation in 1831 of the
British Association for the Advancement of Science The British Science Association (BSA) is a charity Charity may refer to: Giving * Charitable organization or charity, a non-profit organization whose primary objectives are philanthropy and social well-being * Charity (practice), the practice ...
(BAAS). The '' Mechanics' Magazine'' in 1831 identified as Declinarians the followers of Babbage. In an unsympathetic tone it pointed out David Brewster writing in the ''Quarterly Review'' as another leader; with the barb that both Babbage and Brewster had received public money. In the debate of the period on statistics (''qua'' data collection) and what is now statistical inference, the BAAS in its Statistical Section (which owed something also to William Whewell, Whewell) opted for data collection. This Section was the sixth, established in 1833 with Babbage as chairman and John Elliot Drinkwater as secretary. The foundation of the Statistical Society followed. Babbage was its public face, backed by Richard Jones and Robert Malthus.

''On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures''

Babbage published ''On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures'' (1832), on the organisation of industrial production. It was an influential early work of operational research. John Rennie the Younger in addressing the Institution of Civil Engineers on manufacturing in 1846 mentioned mostly surveys in encyclopaedias, and Babbage's book was first an article in the ''Encyclopædia Metropolitana'', the form in which Rennie noted it, in the company of related works by John Farey, Jr., Peter Barlow (mathematician), Peter Barlow and Andrew Ure. From ''An essay on the general principles which regulate the application of machinery to manufactures and the mechanical arts'' (1827), which became the ''Encyclopædia Metropolitana'' article of 1829, Babbage developed the schematic classification of machines that, combined with discussion of factories, made up the first part of the book. The second part considered the "domestic and political economy" of manufactures. The book sold well, and quickly went to a fourth edition (1836). Babbage represented his work as largely a result of actual observations in factories, British and abroad. It was not, in its first edition, intended to address deeper questions of political economy; the second (late 1832) did, with three further chapters including one on piece rate. The book also contained ideas on rational design in factories, and profit sharing.

"Babbage principle"

In ''Economy of Machinery'' was described what is now called the "Babbage principle". It pointed out commercial advantages available with more careful division of labour. As Babbage himself noted, it had already appeared in the work of Melchiorre Gioia in 1815. The term was introduced in 1974 by Harry Braverman. Related formulations are the "principle of multiples" of Philip Sargant Florence, and the "balance of processes". What Babbage remarked is that skilled workers typically spend parts of their time performing tasks that are below their skill level. If the labour process can be divided among several workers, labour costs may be cut by assigning only high-skill tasks to high-cost workers, restricting other tasks to lower-paid workers. He also pointed out that training or apprenticeship can be taken as fixed costs; but that returns to scale are available by his approach of standardisation of tasks, therefore again favouring the factory system. His view of human capital was restricted to minimising the time period for recovery of training costs.


Another aspect of the work was its detailed breakdown of the cost structure of book publishing. Babbage took the unpopular line, from the publishers' perspective, of exposing the trade's profitability. He went as far as to name the organisers of the trade's restrictive practices. Twenty years later he attended a meeting hosted by John Chapman (publisher), John Chapman to campaign against the Booksellers Association, still a cartel.


It has been written that "what Arthur Young (writer), Arthur Young was to agriculture, Charles Babbage was to the factory visit and machinery". Babbage's theories are said to have influenced the layout of the 1851 Great Exhibition, and his views had a strong effect on his contemporary George Julius Poulett Scrope. Karl Marx argued that the source of the productivity of the factory system was exactly the combination of the division of labour with machinery, building on Adam Smith, Babbage and Ure. Where Marx picked up on Babbage and disagreed with Smith was on the motivation for division of labour by the manufacturer: as Babbage did, he wrote that it was for the sake of Profit (accounting), profitability, rather than productivity, and identified an impact on the concept of a trade (occupation), trade. John Ruskin went further, to oppose completely what manufacturing in Babbage's sense stood for. Babbage also affected the economic thinking of John Stuart Mill. George Holyoake saw Babbage's detailed discussion of profit sharing as substantive, in the tradition of Robert Owen and Charles Fourier, if requiring the attentions of a benevolent captain of industry, and ignored at the time. Works by Babbage and Ure were published in French translation in 1830; ''On the Economy of Machinery'' was translated in 1833 into French by Édouard Biot, and into German the same year by Gottfried Friedenberg. The French engineer and writer on industrial organisation Léon Lalanne was influenced by Babbage, but also by the economist Claude Lucien Bergery, in reducing the issues to "technology". William Jevons connected Babbage's "economy of labour" with his own labour experiments of 1870. The Babbage principle is an inherent assumption in Frederick Winslow Taylor's scientific management. Mary Everest Boole claimed that there was profound influence – via her uncle George Everest – of Indian thought in general and Indian logic, in particular, on Babbage and on her husband George Boole, as well as on Augustus De Morgan:
Think what must have been the effect of the intense Hinduizing of three such men as Babbage, De Morgan, and George Boole on the mathematical atmosphere of 1830–65. What share had it in generating the Vector Analysis and the mathematics by which investigations in physical science are now conducted?

Natural theology

In 1837, responding to the series of eight ''Bridgewater Treatises'', Babbage published his ''Ninth Bridgewater Treatise'', under the title ''On the Power, Wisdom and Goodness of God, as manifested in the Creation''. In this work Babbage weighed in on the side of uniformitarianism in a current debate. He preferred the conception of creation in which a God-given natural law dominated, removing the need for continuous "contrivance". The book is a work of natural theology, and incorporates extracts from related correspondence of Herschel with Charles Lyell. Babbage put forward the thesis that God had the omnipotence and foresight to create as a divine legislator. In this book, Babbage dealt with relating interpretations between science and religion; on the one hand, he insisted that "there exists no fatal collision between the words of The Bible, Scripture and the facts of nature;" on the one hand, he wrote the Book of Genesis was not meant to be read literally in relation to scientific terms. Against those who said these were in conflict, he wrote "that the contradiction they have imagined can have no real existence, and that whilst the testimony of Moses remains unimpeached, we may also be permitted to confide in the testimony of our senses." The ''Ninth Bridgewater Treatise'' was quoted extensively in ''Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation''. The parallel with Babbage's computing machines is made explicit, as allowing plausibility to the theory that transmutation of species could be pre-programmed. Jonar Ganeri, author of ''Indian Logic'', believes Babbage may have been influenced by Indian thought; one possible route would be through Henry Thomas Colebrooke. Mary Everest Boole argues that Babbage was introduced to Indian thought in the 1820s by her uncle George Everest:
Some time about 1825, [Everest] came to England for two or three years, and made a fast and lifelong friendship with Herschel and with Babbage, who was then quite young. I would ask any fair-minded mathematician to read Babbage's Ninth Bridgewater Treatise and compare it with the works of his contemporaries in England; and then ask himself whence came the peculiar conception of the nature of miracle which underlies Babbage's ideas of Singular Points on Curves (Chap, viii) – from European Theology or Hindu Metaphysic? Oh! how the English clergy of that day hated Babbage's book!

Religious views

Babbage was raised in the Protestant form of the Christian faith, his family having inculcated in him an orthodox form of worship. He explained: Rejecting the Athanasian Creed as a "direct contradiction in terms", in his youth he looked to Samuel Clarke's works on religion, of which ''Being and Attributes of God'' (1704) exerted a particularly strong influence on him. Later in life, Babbage concluded that "the true value of the Christian religion rested, not on speculative [theology] … but … upon those doctrines of kindness and benevolence which that religion claims and enforces, not merely in favour of man himself but of every creature susceptible of pain or of happiness." In his autobiography s:Passages from the Life of a Philosopher, ''Passages from the Life of a Philosopher'' (1864), Babbage wrote a whole chapter on the topic of religion, where he identified three sources of divine knowledge: # ''A priori'' or mystical experience # From Revelation # From the examination of the works of the Creator He stated, on the basis of the design argument, that studying the works of nature had been the more appealing evidence, and the one which led him to actively profess the existence of God. Advocating for natural theology, he wrote: Like Samuel Vince, Babbage also wrote a defence of the belief in divine miracles. Against objections previously posed by David Hume, Babbage advocated for the belief of divine agency, stating "we must not measure the credibility or incredibility of an event by the narrow sphere of our own experience, nor forget that there is a Divine energy which overrides what we familiarly call the laws of nature." He alluded to the limits of human experience, expressing: "all that we see in a miracle is an effect which is new to our observation, and whose cause is concealed. The cause may be beyond the sphere of our observation, and would be thus beyond the familiar sphere of nature; but this does not make the event a violation of any law of nature. The limits of man's observation lie within very narrow boundaries, and it would be arrogance to suppose that the reach of man's power is to form the limits of the natural world."

Later life

The British Association was consciously modelled on the Deutsche Naturforscher-Versammlung, founded in 1822. It rejected romantic science as well as metaphysics, and started to entrench the divisions of science from literature, and professionals from amateurs. Belonging as he did to the "Wattite" faction in the BAAS, represented in particular by James Watt the younger, Babbage identified closely with industrialists. He wanted to go faster in the same directions, and had little time for the more gentlemanly component of its membership. Indeed, he subscribed to a version of conjectural history that placed industrial society as the culmination of human development (and shared this view with Herschel). A clash with Roderick Murchison led in 1838 to his withdrawal from further involvement. At the end of the same year he sent in his resignation as Lucasian professor, walking away also from the Cambridge struggle with Whewell. His interests became more focussed, on computation and metrology, and on international contacts.

Metrology programme

A project announced by Babbage was to tabulate all physical constants (referred to as "constants of nature", a phrase in itself a neologism), and then to compile an encyclopaedic work of numerical information. He was a pioneer in the field of "absolute measurement". His ideas followed on from those of Johann Christian Poggendorff, and were mentioned to David Brewster, Brewster in 1832. There were to be 19 categories of constants, and Ian Hacking sees these as reflecting in part Babbage's "eccentric enthusiasms". Babbage's paper ''On Tables of the Constants of Nature and Art'' was reprinted by the Smithsonian Institution in 1856, with an added note that the physical tables of Arnold Henry Guyot "will form a part of the important work proposed in this article". Exact measurement was also key to the development of machine tools. Here again Babbage is considered a pioneer, with Henry Maudslay, William Sellers, and Joseph Whitworth.

Engineer and inventor

Through the Royal Society Babbage acquired the friendship of the engineer Marc Brunel. It was through Brunel that Babbage knew of Joseph Clement, and so came to encounter the artisans whom he observed in his work on manufactures. Babbage provided an introduction for Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1830, for a contact with the proposed Bristol & Birmingham Railway. He carried out studies, around 1838, to show the superiority of the broad gauge for railways, used by Brunel's Great Western Railway. In 1838, Babbage invented the pilot (locomotive), pilot (also called a cow-catcher), the metal frame attached to the front of locomotives that clears the tracks of obstacles; he also constructed a dynamometer car. His eldest son, Benjamin Herschel Babbage, worked as an engineer for Brunel on the railways before emigrating to Australia in the 1850s. Babbage also invented an ophthalmoscope, which he gave to Thomas Wharton Jones for testing. Jones, however, ignored it. The device only came into use after being independently invented by Hermann von Helmholtz.


Babbage achieved notable results in cryptography, though this was still not known a century after his death. Letter frequency was category 18 of Babbage's tabulation project. Joseph Henry later defended interest in it, in the absence of the facts, as relevant to the management of movable type. As early as 1845, Babbage had solved a cipher that had been posed as a challenge by his nephew Henry Hollier, and in the process, he made a discovery about ciphers that were based on Vigenère tables. Specifically, he realised that enciphering plain text with a keyword rendered the cipher text subject to modular arithmetic. During the Crimean War of the 1850s, Babbage broke Vigenère's autokey cipher as well as the much weaker cipher that is called Vigenère cipher today. His discovery was kept a military secret, and was not published. Credit for the result was instead given to Friedrich Kasiski, a Prussian infantry officer, who made the same discovery some years later. However, in 1854, Babbage published the solution of a Vigenère cipher, which had been published previously in the ''Journal of the Society of Arts''. In 1855, Babbage also published a short letter, "Cypher Writing", in the same journal. Nevertheless, his priority was not established until 1985.

Public nuisances

Babbage involved himself in well-publicised but unpopular campaigns against public nuisances. He once counted all the broken panes of glass of a factory, publishing in 1857 a "Table of the Relative Frequency of the Causes of Breakage of Plate Glass Windows": Of 464 broken panes, 14 were caused by "drunken men, women or boys". Babbage's distaste for commoners (the Mob) included writing "Observations of Street Nuisances" in 1864, as well as tallying up 165 "nuisances" over a period of 80 days. He especially hated busking, street music, and in particular the music of organ grinders, against whom he railed in various venues. The following quotation is typical: Babbage was not alone in his campaign. A convert to the cause was the MP Michael Thomas Bass. In the 1860s, Babbage also took up the anti-Hoop rolling#British Empire, hoop-rolling campaign. He blamed hoop-rolling boys for driving their iron hoops under horses' legs, with the result that the rider is thrown and very often the horse breaks a leg. Babbage achieved a certain notoriety in this matter, being denounced in debate in Commons in 1864 for "commencing a crusade against the popular game of tip-cat and the trundling of hoops."

Computing pioneer

Babbage's machines were among the first mechanical computers. That they were not actually completed was largely because of funding problems and clashes of personality, most notably with George Biddell Airy, the Astronomer Royal. Babbage directed the building of some steam-powered machines that achieved some modest success, suggesting that calculations could be mechanised. For more than ten years he received government funding for his project, which amounted to £17,000, but eventually the Treasury lost confidence in him. While Babbage's machines were mechanical and unwieldy, their basic architecture was similar to a modern computer. The data and program memory were separated, operation was instruction-based, the control unit could make conditional jumps, and the machine had a separate Input/output, I/O unit.

Background on mathematical tables

In Babbage's time, printed mathematical tables were calculated by human computers; in other words, by hand. They were central to navigation, science and engineering, as well as mathematics. Mistakes were known to occur in transcription as well as calculation. At Cambridge, Babbage saw the fallibility of this process, and the opportunity of adding mechanisation into its management. His own account of his path towards mechanical computation references a particular occasion: There was another period, seven years later, when his interest was aroused by the issues around computation of mathematical tables. The French official initiative by Gaspard de Prony, and its problems of implementation, were familiar to him. After the Napoleonic Wars came to a close, scientific contacts were renewed on the level of personal contact: in 1819 Charles Blagden was in Paris looking into the printing of the stalled de Prony project, and lobbying for the support of the Royal Society. In works of the 1820s and 1830s, Babbage referred in detail to de Prony's project.

Difference engine

Babbage began in 1822 with what he called the difference engine, made to compute values of polynomial functions. It was created to calculate a series of values automatically. By using the method of finite differences, it was possible to avoid the need for multiplication and division. For a prototype difference engine, Babbage brought in Joseph Clement to implement the design, in 1823. Clement worked to high standards, but his machine tools were particularly elaborate. Under the standard terms of business of the time, he could charge for their construction, and would also own them. He and Babbage fell out over costs around 1831. Some parts of the prototype survive in the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford. This prototype evolved into the "first difference engine." It remained unfinished and the finished portion is located at the Science Museum in London. This first difference engine would have been composed of around 25,000 parts, weighed , and would have been tall. Although Babbage received ample funding for the project, it was never completed. He later (1847–1849) produced detailed drawings for an improved version,"Difference Engine No. 2", but did not receive funding from the British government. His design was finally constructed in 1989–1991, using his plans and 19th-century manufacturing tolerances. It performed its first calculation at the Science Museum, London, returning results to 31 digits. Nine years later, in 2000, the Science Museum completed the computer printer, printer Babbage had designed for the difference engine.

Completed models

The Science Museum has constructed two Difference Engines according to Babbage's plans for the Difference Engine No 2. One is owned by the museum. The other, owned by the technology multimillionaire Nathan Myhrvold, went on exhibition at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California on 10 May 2008. The two models that have been constructed are not replicas.

Analytical Engine

After the attempt at making the first difference engine fell through, Babbage worked to design a more complex machine called the Analytical Engine. He hired C. G. Jarvis, who had previously worked for Clement as a draughtsman. The Analytical Engine marks the transition from mechanised arithmetic to fully-fledged general purpose computation. It is largely on it that Babbage's standing as computer pioneer rests. The major innovation was that the Analytical Engine was to be programmed using punched cards: the Engine was intended to use loops of Jacquard loom, Jacquard's punched cards to control a mechanical calculator, which could use as input the results of preceding computations. The machine was also intended to employ several features subsequently used in modern computers, including sequential control, branching and looping. It would have been the first mechanical device to be, in principle, Turing-complete. The Engine was not a single physical machine, but rather a succession of designs that Babbage tinkered with until his death in 1871.

Ada Lovelace and Italian followers

Ada Lovelace, who corresponded with Babbage during his development of the Analytical Engine, is credited with developing an algorithm that would enable the Engine to calculate a sequence of Bernoulli numbers.Robin Hammerman, Andrew L. Russell (2016). ''Ada's Legacy: Cultures of Computing from the Victorian to the Digital Age''. Association for Computing Machinery and Morgan & Claypool Publishers. Despite documentary evidence in Lovelace's own handwriting, some scholars dispute to what extent the ideas were Lovelace's own. For this achievement, she is often described as the first programmer, computer programmer; though no programming language had yet been invented. Lovelace also translated and wrote literature supporting the project. Describing the engine's programming by punch cards, she wrote: "We may say most aptly that the Analytical Engine weaves algebraical patterns just as the
Jacquard loom The Jacquard machine () is a device fitted to a loom A loom is a device used to weave cloth and tapestry. The basic purpose of any loom is to hold the warp threads under tension Tension may refer to: Science * Psychological stress * Tensi ...

Jacquard loom
weaves flowers and leaves." Babbage visited Turin in 1840 at the invitation of Giovanni Plana, who had developed in 1831 an analog computing machine that served as a Cappella dei Mercanti, Turin, perpetual calendar. Here in 1840 in Turin, Babbage gave the only public explanatio and lectures about the Analytical Engine. In 1842 Charles Wheatstone approached Lovelace to translate a paper of Luigi Menabrea, who had taken notes of Babbage's Turin talks; and Babbage asked her to add something of her own. Fortunato Prandi who acted as interpreter in Turin was an Italian exile and follower of Giuseppe Mazzini.

Swedish followers

Per Georg Scheutz wrote about the difference engine in 1830, and experimented in automated computation. After 1834 and Lardner's ''Edinburgh Review'' article he set up a project of his own, doubting whether Babbage's initial plan could be carried out. This he pushed through with his son, Edvard Scheutz. Another Swedish engine was that of Martin Wiberg (1860).


In 2011, researchers in Britain proposed a multimillion-pound project, "Plan 28", to construct Babbage's Analytical Engine. Since Babbage's plans were continually being refined and were never completed, they intended to engage the public in the project and crowdsourcing, crowd-source the analysis of what should be built. It would have the equivalent of 675 bytes of memory, and run at a clock speed of about 7 Hz. They hope to complete it by the 150th anniversary of Babbage's death, in 2021. Advances in microelectromechanical system, MEMS and nanotechnology have led to recent high-tech experiments in mechanical computation. The benefits suggested include operation in high radiation or high temperature environments. These modern versions of mechanical computation were highlighted in ''The Economist'' in its special "end of the millennium" black cover issue in an article entitled "Babbage's Last Laugh". Due to his association with the town Babbage was chosen in 2007 to appear on the 5 Totnes pound note. An image of Babbage features in the British culture, British cultural icons section of the newly designed British passport in 2015.


On 25 July 1814, Babbage married Georgiana Whitmore at St. Michael's Church in Teignmouth, Devon; her sister Louisa married Sir Edward Ryan five months later. The couple lived at Dudmaston Hall, Shropshire (where Babbage engineered the central heating system), before moving to 5 Devonshire Street, London in 1815. Charles and Georgiana had eight children, but only four – Benjamin Herschel Babbage, Benjamin Herschel, Georgiana Whitmore, Dugald Bromhead Babbage, Dugald Bromhead and Henry Prevost – survived childhood. Charles' wife Georgiana died in Worcester, England, Worcester on 1 September 1827, the same year as his father, their second son (also named Charles) and their newborn son Alexander. * Benjamin Herschel Babbage (1815–1878) * Charles Whitmore Babbage (1817–1827) * Georgiana Whitmore Babbage (1818 – 26 September 1834) * Edward Stewart Babbage (1819–1821) * Francis Moore Babbage (1821–????) * Dugald Bromhead (Bromheald?) Babbage (1823–1901) * (Maj-Gen) Henry Prevost Babbage (1824–1918) * Alexander Forbes Babbage (1827–1827) His youngest surviving son, Henry Prevost Babbage (1824–1918), went on to create six small demonstration pieces for Difference Engine No. 1 based on his father's designs, one of which was sent to Harvard University where it was later discovered by Howard H. Aiken, pioneer of the Harvard Mark I. Henry Prevost's 1910 Analytical Engine Mill, previously on display at Dudmaston Hall, is now on display at the Science Museum.


Babbage lived and worked for over 40 years at 1 Dorset Street, Marylebone, where he died, at the age of 79, on 18 October 1871; he was buried in London's Kensal Green Cemetery. According to Horsley, Babbage died "of renal inadequacy, secondary to cystitis." He had declined both a knighthood and baronetcy. He also argued against hereditary peerages, favouring life peerages instead.

Autopsy report

In 1983, the autopsy report for Charles Babbage was discovered and later published by his great-great-grandson. A copy of the original is also available. Half of Babbage's brain is preserved at Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, the Hunterian Museum in the Royal College of Surgeons in London. The other half of Babbage's brain is on display in the Science Museum, London.


There is a black plaque commemorating the 40 years Babbage spent at 1 Dorset Street, London. Locations, institutions and other things named after Babbage include: * The Moon crater Babbage (crater), Babbage * The Charles Babbage Institute, an information technology archive and research center at the University of Minnesota * The Charles Babbage Premium, an annual computing award * British Rail named a British Rail Class 60, locomotive after him in the 1990s * The Babbage Building at the University of Plymouth, where the university's school of computing is based * The Babbage (programming language), Babbage programming language for GEC 4000 series minicomputers * "Babbage", ''The Economist''s Science and Technology blog. * The former chain retail computer and video-games store "Babbage's" (now GameStop) was named after him.

In fiction and film

Babbage frequently appears in steampunk works; he has been called an iconic figure of the genre. Other works in which Babbage appears include: * The 2008 short film ''Babbage'', screened at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, a 2009 finalist with Haydenfilms, and shown at the 2009 HollyShorts Film Festival and other international film festivals. The film shows Babbage at a Party#Dinner party, dinner party, with guests discussing his life and work. * Sydney Padua created ''The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage'', a cartoon alternate history in which Babbage and Lovelace succeed in building the Analytical Engine. It quotes heavily from the writings of Lovelace, Babbage and their contemporaries. * Kate Beaton, cartoonist of webcomic ''Hark! A Vagrant'', devoted one of her comic strips to Charles and Georgiana Babbage.Beaton, Kate
"Charles and Georgiana Babbage"
''Hark! A Vagrant''. Retrieved 3 December 2014.
* The ''Doctor Who'' episode "Spyfall, Part 2" (Season 12, episode 2) features Charles Babbage and Ada Gordon as characters who assist the Doctor when she's stuck in the year 1834.


* * * * * * (Reissued by Cambridge University Press 2009, .) * (The LOCOMAT site contains a reconstruction of this table.) * * * *

See also

* Wolstenholme's theorem, Babbage's congruence * List of pioneers in computer science



* .

External links

* * * * * * *
The Babbage Papers
The papers held by the Science Museum Library and Archives which relate mostly to Babbage's automatic calculating engines
''The Babbage Engine''
Computer History Museum, Mountain View CA, USA. Multi-page account of Babbage, his engines and his associates, including a video of the Museum's functioning replica of the Difference Engine No 2 in action
Analytical Engine Museum
John Walker (programmer), John Walker's (of AutoCAD fame) comprehensive catalogue of the complete technical works relating to Babbage's machine.
Charles Babbage
A history at the School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrews Scotland.
Mr. Charles Babbage
obituary from ''The Times'' (1871)
The Babbage Pages

Charles Babbage, The Online Books Page, University of Pennsylvania

an overview of how it works
"On a Method of Expressing by Signs the Action of Machinery"
1826. Original edition

pages on "Who Was Charles Babbage?" including biographical note, description of Difference Engine No. 2, publications by Babbage, archival and published sources on Babbage, sources on Babbage and Ada Lovelace

''Babbage's Calculating Machine''
(1872) – full digital facsimile from Linda Hall Library
Author profile
in the database Zentralblatt MATH, zbMATH
The 'difference engine' built by Georg & Edvard Scheutz in 1843
* {{DEFAULTSORT:Babbage, Charles Charles Babbage, 1791 births 1871 deaths 19th-century English mathematicians 19th-century English people Alumni of Peterhouse, Cambridge Alumni of Trinity College, Cambridge British business theorists Burials at Kensal Green Cemetery Corresponding members of the Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences English Christians English computer scientists English engineers Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellows of the Royal Astronomical Society Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Fellows of the Royal Society Lucasian Professors of Mathematics People educated at Totnes Grammar School People of the Industrial Revolution Recipients of the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society Mathematicians from London