Charles Babbage (; 26 December 1791 – 18 October 1871) was an English
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 pro ...
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
A mechanical computer is a computer built from mechanical components such as levers and gears rather than electronic components. The most common examples are adding machines and mechanical counters, which use the turning of gears to increment ou ...
, the Difference Engine
, that eventually led to more complex electronic designs, though all the essential ideas of modern computers are to be found in Babbage's
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 desig ...
, programmed using a principle openly borrowed from the
The Jacquard machine () is a device fitted to a loom that simplifies the process of manufacturing textiles with such complex patterns as brocade, damask and matelassé. The resulting ensemble of the loom and Jacquard machine is then called a J ...
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
A science museum is a museum devoted primarily to science. Older science museums tended to concentrate on static displays of objects related to natural history, paleontology, geology, industry and industrial machinery, etc. Modern trends in m ...
in London. In 1991, a 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.
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, published since 1885. The updated ''Oxford Dictionary of National Biography'' (''ODNB'') was published on 23 September ...
'' he was most likely born at 44 Crosby Row, Walworth Road
, London, England.
A blue plaque is a permanent sign installed in a public place in the United Kingdom and elsewhere to commemorate a link between that location and a famous person, event, or former building on the site, serving as a historical marker. The term i ...
on the junction of Larcom Street and Walworth Road commemorates the event.
His date of birth was given in his obituary in ''
''The Times'' is a British daily national newspaper based in London. It began in 1785 under the title ''The Daily Universal Register'', adopting its current name on 1 January 1788. ''The Times'' and its sister paper '' The Sunday Times'' ( ...
'' 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
, London, shows that Babbage was
Baptism (from grc-x-koine, βάπτισμα, váptisma) is a form of ritual purification—a characteristic of many religions throughout time and geography. In Christianity, it is a Christian sacrament of initiation and adoption, almost i ...
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
in founding Praed's & Co. of
Fleet Street is a major street mostly in the City of London. It runs west to east from 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 the street was na ...
, 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
Totnes ( or ) is a market town and civil parish at the head of the estuary of the River Dart in Devon, England, within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is about west of Paignton, about west-southwest of Torquay and ...
, 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
, 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 ( ) is a university city and the county town in Cambridgeshire, England. It is located on the River Cam approximately north of London. As of the 2021 United Kingdom census, the population of Cambridge was 145,700. Cambridge becam ...
; through him Babbage encountered Charles Simeon
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 () is a city in England. It is the county town and only city of Oxfordshire. In 2020, its population was estimated at 151,584. It is north-west of London, south-east of Birmingham and north-east of Bristol. The city is home to th ...
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 of the University of Cambridge. Founded in 1546 by King Henry VIII, Trinity is one of the largest Cambridge colleges, with the largest financial endowment of any college at either Cambridge or Oxford. T ...
, in October 1810.
He was already self-taught in some parts of contemporary mathematics; he had read Robert Woodhouse
Joseph Louis Lagrange
Joseph-Louis Lagrange (born Giuseppe Luigi Lagrangia
[Marie Agnesi. As a result, he was disappointed in the standard mathematical instruction available at the university.](_blank)
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, and several other friends formed the Analytical Society 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, 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 of the University of Cambridge in England, founded in 1284 by Hugh de Balsham, Bishop of Ely. Today, Peterhouse has 254 undergraduates, 116 full-time graduate students and 54 fellows. It is quite .... 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.
Considering his reputation, Babbage quickly made progress. He lectured to the
The Royal Institution of Great Britain (often the Royal Institution, Ri or RI) is an organisation for scientific education and research, based in the City of Westminster. It was founded in 1799 by the leading British scientists of the age, inc ... 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 of London to individuals who have made a "substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathemati ... in 1816. After graduation, on the other hand, he applied for positions unsuccessfully, and had little in the way of a career. In 1816 he was a candidate for a teaching job at 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 scree ... and 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 ..., 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) is a public research university based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Granted a royal charter by King James VI in 1 ..., with the recommendation of Pierre Simon Laplace
Pierre-Simon, marquis de Laplace (; ; 23 March 1749 – 5 March 1827) was a French scholar and polymath whose work was important to the development of engineering, mathematics, statistics, physics, astronomy, and philosophy. He summarized ...; the post went to William Wallace
Sir William Wallace ( gd, Uilleam Uallas, ; Norman French: ; 23 August 1305) was a Scottish knight who became one of the main leaders during the First War of Scottish Independence.
Along with Andrew Moray, Wallace defeated an English army ....
With Herschel, Babbage worked on the electrodynamics
In physics, electromagnetism is an interaction that occurs between particles with electric charge. It is the second-strongest of the four fundamental interactions, after the strong force, and it is the dominant force in the interactions of ... of Arago's rotations, 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 who contributed to the study of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. His main discoveries include the principles underlying electromagnetic induction .... The phenomena are now part of the theory of eddy current
Eddy currents (also called Foucault's currents) are loops of electrical current induced within conductors by a changing magnetic field in the conductor according to Faraday's law of induction or by the relative motion of a conductor in a magnet ...s, and Babbage and Herschel missed some of the clues to unification of electromagnetic theory
In physics, electromagnetism is an interaction that occurs between particles with electric charge. It is the second-strongest of the four fundamental interactions, after the strong force, and it is the dominant force in the interactions of ..., 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, followin ....
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. He is most famous for his observations of " Baily's beads" during a total eclipse of the Sun. Baily was also a major figure in the early history of the Royal Astronomical S ... 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, in the City of Westminster. Oxford Street, Europe's busiest shopping street, forms its southern boundary.
An ancient parish and latterly a metropolitan borough, it me ... 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 Tusc ..., foreshadowing a later visit to Piedmont
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, image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg
, map_caption ..., 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 =
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, type = NG ... 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, cited "for his invention of an engine for calculating mathematical
Mathematics is an area of knowledge that includes the topics of numbers, formulas and related structures, shapes and the spaces in which they are contained, and quantities and their changes. These topics are represented in modern mathematics ... and astronomical tables".
Babbage's motivation to overcome errors in tables by mechanisation had been a commonplace since Dionysius Lardner wrote about it in 1834 in the '' Edinburgh Review
The ''Edinburgh Review'' is the title of four distinct intellectual and cultural magazines. The best known, longest-lasting, and most influential of the four was the third, which was published regularly from 1802 to 1929.
''Edinburgh Review'', ...'' (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''. 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, botanist, and patron of the natural sciences.
Banks made his name on the 1766 natural-history expedition to Newfoundland and Labrador. He took part in Captain James C ..., 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 postcards, letters, and parcels. A postal service can be private or public, though many governments place restrictions on private systems. Since the mid-19th century, national postal syst ..., with his friend Thomas Frederick Colby
Thomas Frederick Colby FRS FRSE FGS FRGS (1 September 17849 October 1852), was a British major-general and director of the Ordnance Survey (OS).
A Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and Royal Society, Colby was one of the leading geogr ..., concluding there should be a uniform rate that was put into effect with the introduction of the Uniform Fourpenny Post supplanted by the Uniform Penny Post
The Uniform Penny Post was a component of the comprehensive reform of the Royal Mail, the UK's official postal service, that took place in the 19th century. The reforms were a government initiative to eradicate the abuse and corruption of the e ... 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 of the River Foyle, on the north coast of Ireland. It lies between County Londonderry in Northern Ireland and County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. Sovereignty over t ... baseline.
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 Lacroix, which was then the state-of-the-art calculus textbook.
Joseph-Louis Lagrange (born Giuseppe Luigi Lagrangia. British mathematicians had used them from about 1730 to 1760. As re-introduced, they were not simply applied as notations in [formal power series
In mathematics, a formal series is an infinite sum that is considered independently from any notion of convergence, and can be manipulated with the usual algebraic operations on series (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, partial sum ...](_blank) differential calculus
In mathematics, differential calculus is a subfield of calculus that studies the rates at which quantities change. It is one of the two traditional divisions of calculus, the other being integral calculus—the study of the area beneath a curve. .... They opened up the fields of functional equation
In mathematics, a functional equation
is, in the broadest meaning, an equation in which one or several functions appear as unknowns. So, differential equations and integral equations are functional equations. However, a more restricted meaning ...s (including the difference equation
In mathematics, a recurrence relation is an equation according to which the nth term of a sequence of numbers is equal to some combination of the previous terms. Often, only k previous terms of the sequence appear in the equation, for a parameter ...s fundamental to the difference engine) and operator ( D-module) methods for differential equation
In mathematics, a differential equation is an equation that relates one or more unknown functions and their derivatives. In applications, the functions generally represent physical quantities, the derivatives represent their rates of change, an ...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 calculus Operational calculus, also known as operational analysis, is a technique by which problems in analysis, in particular differential equations, are transformed into algebraic problems, usually the problem of solving a polynomial equation.
Th ..., 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, the Taylor series or Taylor expansion of a function is an infinite sum of terms that are expressed in terms of the function's derivatives at a single point. For most common functions, the function and the sum of its Taylor seri ... as formal.
In this context function composition
In mathematics, function composition is an operation that takes two functions and , and produces a function such that . In this operation, the function is applied to the result of applying the function to . That is, the functions and ... is complicated to express, because the chain rule
In calculus, the chain rule is a formula that expresses the derivative of the composition of two differentiable functions and in terms of the derivatives of and . More precisely, if h=f\circ g is the function such that h(x)=f(g(x)) for every , ... is not simply applied to second and higher derivatives. This matter was known to Woodhouse by 1803, who took from Louis François Antoine Arbogast
Louis François Antoine Arbogast (4 October 1759 – 8 April 1803) was a French mathematician. He was born at Mutzig in Alsace and died at Strasbourg, where he was professor. He wrote on series and the derivatives known by his name: he was th ... what is now called Faà di Bruno's formula
Faà di Bruno's formula is an identity in mathematics generalizing the chain rule to higher derivatives. It is named after , although he was not the first to state or prove the formula. In 1800, more than 50 years before Faà di Bruno, the French .... In essence it was known to 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'' Byron; 10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852) was an English mathematician and writer, chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage's proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Ana ... 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 exponential map). 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 published by the Royal Society. In its earliest days, it was a private venture of the Royal Society's secretary. It was established in 1665, making it the first journa ...'' (1815/6), Babbage said his starting point was work of Gaspard Monge.
From 1828 to 1839, Babbage was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge. Not a conventional resident
Don, don or DON and variants may refer to:
*County Donegal, Ireland, Chapman code DON
*Don (river), a river in European Russia
* Don River (disambiguation), several other rivers with the name
* Don, Benin, a town in Benin
* Don, Dang, a v ..., 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 (abbreviation: AAA&S) is one of the oldest learned societies in the United States. It was founded in 1780 during the American Revolution by John Adams, John Hancock, James Bowdoin, Andrew Oliver, a ... 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 and astronomer, and the seventh Astronomer Royal from 1835 to 1881. His many achievements include work on planetary orbits, measuring the mean density of the E ..., 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 how economic systems (e.g. markets and national economies) and political systems (e.g. law, institutions, government) are linked. Widely studied phenomena within the discipline are systems such as labour .... Babbage's reforming direction looked to see university education 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 polymath, scientist, Anglican priest, philosopher, theologian, and historian of science. He was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. In his time as a student there, he achieved ... 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 writes that his views of the 1830s included disestablishment of the Church of England
The Church of England (C of E) is the established Christian church in England and the mother church of the international Anglican Communion. It traces its history to the Christian church recorded as existing in the Roman province of Britain ..., a broader political franchise, and inclusion of manufacturers as stakeholders. He twice stood for Parliament as a candidate for the borough of Finsbury. 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 ... and Christopher Temple, split the vote. In his memoirs Babbage related how this election brought him the friendship of 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, however they were not subsequently made knights bachelor
The title of Knight Bachelor is the basic rank granted to a man who has been knighted by the monarch but not inducted as a member of one of the organised orders of chivalry; it is a part of the British honours system. Knights Bachelor are t ... 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 female equivalent, a baronetess (, , or ; abbreviation Btss), is the holder of a baronetcy, a hereditary title awarded by the British Crown. The title of baronet is mentioned as early as the 14th ...).
"Declinarians", learned societies and the BAAS
Babbage now emerged as a polemicist. 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 (born Davies Giddy, 6 March 1767 – 24 December 1839) was an English 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 ... 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 British chemist and inventor who invented the Davy lamp and a very early form of arc lamp. He is also remembered for isolating, by using electricity, several elements for t .... 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 of Sussex is a substantive title, one of several royal dukedoms, that has been created twice in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It is a hereditary title of a specific rank of nobility in the British royal family. It takes its name f ... 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 (BAAS).
The '' Mechanics' Magazine'' in 1831 identified as Declinarians the followers of Babbage. In an unsympathetic tone it pointed out David Brewster
Sir David Brewster KH PRSE FRS FSA Scot FSSA MICE (11 December 178110 February 1868) was a British scientist, inventor, author, and academic administrator. In science he is principally remembered for his experimental work in physical optic ... writing in the '' Quarterly Review
The ''Quarterly Review'' was a literary and political periodical founded in March 1809 by London publishing house John Murray. It ceased publication in 1967. It was referred to as ''The London Quarterly Review'', as reprinted by Leonard Scott, f ...'' as another leader; with the barb that both Babbage and Brewster had received public money.
In the debate of the period on statistics
Statistics (from German: ''Statistik'', "description of a state, a country") is the discipline that concerns the collection, organization, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of data. In applying statistics to a scientific, industr ... (''qua'' data collection) and what is now statistical inference
Statistical inference is the process of using data analysis to infer properties of an underlying distribution of probability.Upton, G., Cook, I. (2008) ''Oxford Dictionary of Statistics'', OUP. . Inferential statistical analysis infers properti ..., the BAAS in its Statistical Section (which owed something also to 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 is a measure of output of the industrial sector of the economy. The industrial sector includes manufacturing, mining, and utilities. Although these sectors contribute only a small portion of gross domestic product (GDP), the .... It was an influential early work of operational research. John Rennie the Younger in addressing the Institution of Civil Engineers
The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) is an independent professional association for civil engineers and a charitable body in the United Kingdom. Based in London, ICE has over 92,000 members, of whom three-quarters are located in the UK, whi ... 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 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
Profit sharing is various incentive plans introduced by businesses that provide direct or indirect payments to employees that depend on company's profitability in addition to employees' regular salary and bonuses. In publicly traded companies the ....
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
The division of labour is the separation of the tasks in any economic system or organisation so that participants may specialise (specialisation). Individuals, organizations, and nations are endowed with, or acquire specialised capabilities, and .... 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
The factory system is a method of manufacturing using machinery and division of labor. Because of the high capital cost of machinery and factory buildings, factories are typically privately owned by wealthy individuals or corporations who emplo .... His view of human capital
Human capital is a concept used by social scientists to designate personal attributes considered useful in the production process. It encompasses employee knowledge, skills, know-how, good health, and education. Human capital has a substantial ... 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 to campaign against the Booksellers Association, still a
A cartel is a group of independent market participants who collude with each other in order to improve their profits and dominate the market. Cartels are usually associations in the same sphere of business, and thus an alliance of rivals. Mo ....
It has been written that "what 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 Heinrich Marx (; 5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist, critic of political economy, and socialist revolutionary. His best-known titles are the 1848 ... argued that the source of the productivity
Productivity is the efficiency of production of goods or services expressed by some measure. Measurements of productivity are often expressed as a ratio of an aggregate output to a single input or an aggregate input used in a production proces ... of the factory system was exactly the combination of the division of labour with machinery, building on Adam Smith
Adam Smith (baptized 1723 – 17 July 1790) was a Scottish economist and philosopher who was a pioneer in the thinking of political economy and key figure during the Scottish Enlightenment. Seen by some as "The Father of Economics"——— ..., 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 profitability, rather than productivity, and identified an impact on the concept of a trade
Trade involves the transfer of goods and services from one person or entity to another, often in exchange for money. Economists refer to a system or network that allows trade as a market.
An early form of trade, barter, saw the direct excha ....
John Ruskin (8 February 1819 20 January 1900) was an English writer, philosopher, art critic and polymath of the Victorian era. He wrote on subjects as varied as geology, architecture, myth, ornithology, literature, education, botany and polit ... went further, to oppose completely what manufacturing in Babbage's sense stood for. Babbage also affected the economic thinking of John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill (20 May 1806 – 7 May 1873) was an English philosopher, political economist, Member of Parliament (MP) and civil servant. One of the most influential thinkers in the history of classical liberalism, he contributed widely to .... George Holyoake
George Jacob Holyoake (13 April 1817 – 22 January 1906) was an English secularist, co-operator and newspaper editor. He coined the terms secularism in 1851 and "jingoism" in 1878. He edited a secularist paper, the ''Reasoner'', from 1846 to J ... saw Babbage's detailed discussion of profit sharing as substantive, in the tradition of Robert Owen
Robert Owen (; 14 May 1771 – 17 November 1858) was a Welsh textile manufacturer, philanthropist and social reformer, and a founder of utopian socialism and the cooperative movement. He strove to improve factory working conditions, promoted ... and Charles Fourier
François Marie Charles Fourier (;; 7 April 1772 – 10 October 1837) was a French philosopher, an influential early socialist thinker and one of the founders of utopian socialism. Some of Fourier's social and moral views, held to be radical in ..., 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
Léon Louis Lalanne (; real surname: Chrétien-Lalanne; 3 July 1811 – 12 March 1892) was a French engineer and politician.
Lalanne was born in Paris on 3 July 1811, as Léon Louis Chrétien, the son of François Julien Léon Chrétien, a ph ... 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
Frederick Winslow Taylor (March 20, 1856 – March 21, 1915) was an American mechanical engineer. He was widely known for his methods to improve industrial efficiency. He was one of the first management consultants. In 1909, Taylor summed up h ...'s scientific management
Scientific management is a theory of management that analyzes and synthesizes workflows. Its main objective is improving economic efficiency, especially labor productivity. It was one of the earliest attempts to apply science to the engineeri ....
Mary Everest Boole claimed that there was profound influence – via her uncle George Everest
Colonel Sir George Everest CB FRS FRAS FRGS (; 4 July 1790 – 1 December 1866) was a British surveyor and geographer who served as Surveyor General of India from 1830 to 1843.
After receiving a military education in Marlow, Everest joined ... – of Indian thought in general and Indian logic
The development of Indian logic dates back to the '' anviksiki'' of Medhatithi Gautama (c. 6th century BCE); the Sanskrit grammar rules of Pāṇini (c. 5th century BCE); the Vaisheshika school's analysis of atomism (c. 6th century BCE to 2nd cent ..., in particular, on Babbage and on her husband George Boole
George Boole (; 2 November 1815 – 8 December 1864) was a largely self-taught English mathematician, philosopher, and logician, most of whose short career was spent as the first professor of mathematics at Queen's College, Cork in I ..., 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 calculus, or vector analysis, is concerned with differentiation and integration of vector fields, primarily in 3-dimensional Euclidean space \mathbb^3. The term "vector calculus" is sometimes used as a synonym for the broader subjec ... and the mathematics by which investigations in physical science are now conducted?
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, also known as the Doctrine of Uniformity or the Uniformitarian Principle, is the assumption that the same natural laws and processes that operate in our present-day scientific observations have always operated in the universe in ... in a current debate. He preferred the conception of creation in which a God-given natural law
Natural law ( la, ius naturale, ''lex naturalis'') is a system of law based on a close observation of human nature, and based on values intrinsic to human nature that can be deduced and applied independently of positive law (the express enacte ... dominated, removing the need for continuous "contrivance".
The book is a work of natural theology
Natural theology, once also termed physico-theology, is a type of theology that seeks to provide arguments for theological topics (such as the existence of a deity) based on reason and the discoveries of science.
This distinguishes it fro ..., and incorporates extracts from related correspondence of Herschel with Charles Lyell
Sir Charles Lyell, 1st Baronet, (14 November 1797 – 22 February 1875) was a Scottish geologist who demonstrated the power of known natural causes in explaining the earth's history. He is best known as the author of ''Principles of Geolo .... 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 Scripture
Religious texts, including scripture, are texts which various religions consider to be of central importance to their religious tradition. They differ from literature by being a compilation or discussion of beliefs, mythologies, ritual pra ... and the facts of nature;" on the one hand, he wrote the Book of Genesis
The Book of Genesis (from Greek ; Hebrew: בְּרֵאשִׁית ''Bəreʾšīt'', "In hebeginning") is the first book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament. Its Hebrew name is the same as its first word, ( "In the beginning"). ... 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
Moses hbo, מֹשֶׁה, Mōše; also known as Moshe or Moshe Rabbeinu ( Mishnaic Hebrew: מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּינוּ, ); syr, ܡܘܫܐ, Mūše; ar, موسى, Mūsā; grc, Mωϋσῆς, Mōÿsēs () is considered the most important pr ... 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
''Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation'' is an 1844 work of speculative natural history and philosophy by Robert Chambers. Published anonymously in England, it brought together various ideas of stellar evolution with the progressive tr ...''. The parallel with Babbage's computing machines is made explicit, as allowing plausibility to the theory that transmutation of species
Transmutation of species and transformism are unproven 18th and 19th-century evolutionary ideas about the change of one species into another that preceded Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection. The French ''Transformisme'' was a term used ... 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, verestcame 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!
Babbage was raised in the Protestant form of the Christian faith, his family having inculcated in him an orthodox form of worship. He explained:
The Athanasian Creed, also called the Pseudo-Athanasian Creed and sometimes known as ''Quicunque Vult'' (or ''Quicumque Vult''), which is both its Latin name and its opening words, meaning "Whosoever wishes", is a Christian statement of belief ... as a "direct contradiction in terms", in his youth he looked to Samuel Clarke
Samuel Clarke (11 October 1675 – 17 May 1729) was an English philosopher and Anglican cleric. He is considered the major British figure in philosophy between John Locke and George Berkeley.
Early life and studies
Clarke was born in Norwich, ...'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 heology… 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 ''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
The existence of God (or more generally, the existence of deities) is a subject of debate in theology, philosophy of religion and popular culture. A wide variety of arguments for and against the existence of God or deities can be categoriz .... Advocating for natural theology, he wrote:
Like Samuel Vince, Babbage also wrote a defence of the belief in divine miracle
A miracle is an event that is inexplicable by natural or scientific lawsOne dictionary define"Miracle"as: "A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divin ...s. Against objections previously posed by David Hume
David Hume (; born David Home; 7 May 1711 NS (26 April 1711 OS) – 25 August 1776) Cranston, Maurice, and Thomas Edmund Jessop. 2020 999br>David Hume" ''Encyclopædia Britannica''. Retrieved 18 May 2020. was a Scottish Enlightenment philo ..., 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."
The British Association was consciously modelled on the Deutsche Naturforscher-Versammlung, founded in 1822. It rejected romantic science as well as
Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that studies the fundamental nature of reality, the first principles of being, identity and change, space and time, causality, necessity, and possibility. It includes questions about the nature of consci ..., 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 Conjectural history is a type of historiography isolated in the 1790s by Dugald Stewart, who termed it "theoretical or conjectural history," as prevalent in the historians and early social scientists of the Scottish Enlightenment. As Stewart saw it, ... that placed industrial society
In sociology, industrial society is a society driven by the use of technology and machinery to enable mass production, supporting a large population with a high capacity for division of labour. Such a structure developed in the Western world in ... as the culmination of human development (and shared this view with Herschel). A clash with Roderick Murchison
Sir Roderick Impey Murchison, 1st Baronet, (19 February 1792 – 22 October 1871) was a Scottish geologist who served as director-general of the British Geological Survey from 1855 until his death in 1871. He is noted for investigating and d ... 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
Metrology is the scientific study of measurement. It establishes a common understanding of units, crucial in linking human activities. Modern metrology has its roots in the French Revolution's political motivation to standardise units in Fran ..., and on international contacts.
A project announced by Babbage was to tabulate all
A physical constant, sometimes fundamental physical constant or universal constant, is a physical quantity that is generally believed to be both universal in nature and have constant value in time. It is contrasted with a mathematical constant, ...s (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 Brewster in 1832. There were to be 19 categories of constants, and Ian Hacking
Ian MacDougall Hacking (born February 18, 1936) is a Canadian philosopher specializing in the philosophy of science. Throughout his career, he has won numerous awards, such as the Killam Prize for the Humanities and the Balzan Prize, and been ... 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
The Smithsonian Institution ( ), or simply the Smithsonian, is a group of museums and education and research centers, the largest such complex in the world, created by the U.S. government "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge". Founded ... 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
Henry Maudslay ( pronunciation and spelling) (22 August 1771 – 14 February 1831) was an English machine tool innovator, tool and die maker, and inventor. He is considered a founding father of machine tool technology. His inventions were an ..., William Sellers, and Joseph Whitworth
Sir Joseph Whitworth, 1st Baronet (21 December 1803 – 22 January 1887) was an English engineer, entrepreneur, inventor and philanthropist. In 1841, he devised the British Standard Whitworth system, which created an accepted standard for scr ....
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
Isambard Kingdom Brunel (; 9 April 1806 – 15 September 1859) was a British civil engineer who is considered "one of the most ingenious and prolific figures in engineering history," "one of the 19th-century engineering giants," and "one ... 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
A broad-gauge railway is a railway with a track gauge (the distance between the rails) broader than the used by standard-gauge railways.
Broad gauge of , commonly known as Russian gauge, is the dominant track gauge in former Soviet Union ( C ... for railways, used by Brunel's Great Western Railway
The Great Western Railway (GWR) was a British railway company that linked London with the southwest, west and West Midlands of England and most of Wales. It was founded in 1833, received its enabling Act of Parliament on 31 August 1835 and ran ....
In 1838, Babbage invented the 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
Ophthalmoscopy, also called funduscopy, is a test that allows a health professional to see inside the fundus of the eye and other structures using an ophthalmoscope (or funduscope). It is done as part of an eye examination and may be done as part ..., 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
Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz (31 August 1821 – 8 September 1894) was a German physicist and physician who made significant contributions in several scientific fields, particularly hydrodynamic stability. The Helmholtz Associatio ....
Babbage achieved notable results in
Cryptography, or cryptology (from grc, , translit=kryptós "hidden, secret"; and ''graphein'', "to write", or '' -logia'', "study", respectively), is the practice and study of techniques for secure communication in the presence of adve ..., though this was still not known a century after his death. Letter frequency
Letter frequency is the number of times letters of the alphabet appear on average in written language. Letter frequency analysis dates back to the Arab mathematician Al-Kindi (c. 801–873 AD), who formally developed the method to bre ... was category 18 of Babbage's tabulation project. Joseph Henry
Joseph Henry (December 17, 1797– May 13, 1878) was an American scientist who served as the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. He was the secretary for the National Institute for the Promotion of Science, a precursor of the Smith ... later defended interest in it, in the absence of the facts, as relevant to the management of movable type
Movable type (US English; moveable type in British English) is the system and technology of printing and typography that uses movable components to reproduce the elements of a document (usually individual alphanumeric characters or punctuatio ....
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
In mathematics, modular arithmetic is a system of arithmetic for integers, where numbers "wrap around" when reaching a certain value, called the modulus. The modern approach to modular arithmetic was developed by Carl Friedrich Gauss in his boo .... During the Crimean War
The Crimean War, , was fought from October 1853 to February 1856 between Russia and an ultimately victorious alliance of the Ottoman Empire, France, the United Kingdom and Piedmont-Sardinia.
Geopolitical causes of the war included the d ... of the 1850s, Babbage broke Vigenère's autokey cipher
An autokey cipher (also known as the autoclave cipher) is a cipher that incorporates the message (the plaintext) into the key. The key is generated from the message in some automated fashion, sometimes by selecting certain letters from the text o ... 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.
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 street music, and in particular the music of
A street organ (french: orgue de rue or ''orgue de barbarie''; german: Straßenorgel) played by an organ grinder is a French- German automatic mechanical pneumatic organ designed to be mobile enough to play its music in the street. The two most co ...s, 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 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
Tip-cat (also called cat, cat and dog, one-a-cat, pussy, or piggy) is a pastime which consists of tapping a short billet of wood (usually no more than ) with a larger stick (similar to a baseball bat or broom handle); the shorter piece is tapered ... and the trundling of hoops."
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 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
The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major global conflicts pitting the French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of European states formed into various coalitions. It produced a period of Fre ... 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.
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
A machine tool is a machine for handling or machining metal or other rigid materials, usually by cutting, boring, grinding, shearing, or other forms of deformations. Machine tools employ some sort of tool that does the cutting or shaping. All ...s 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 printer Babbage had designed for the difference engine.
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 Paul Myhrvold (born August 3, 1959), formerly Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft, is co-founder of Intellectual Ventures and the principal author of '' Modernist Cuisine'' and its successor books. Myhrvold was listed as co-inventor ..., went on exhibition at the Computer History Museum
The Computer History Museum (CHM) is a museum of computer history, located in Mountain View, California. The museum presents stories and artifacts of Silicon Valley and the information age, and explores the computing revolution and its impac ... in Mountain View, California
Mountain View is a city in Santa Clara County, California, United States. Named for its views of the Santa Cruz Mountains, it has a population of 82,376.
Mountain View was integral to the early history and growth of Silicon Valley, and is the ... on 10 May 2008. The two models that have been constructed are not replicas.
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 card
A punched card (also punch card or punched-card) is a piece of stiff paper that holds digital data represented by the presence or absence of holes in predefined positions. Punched cards were once common in data processing applications or to d ...s: the Engine was intended to use loops of 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
In mathematics, the Bernoulli numbers are a sequence of rational numbers which occur frequently in analysis. The Bernoulli numbers appear in (and can be defined by) the Taylor series expansions of the tangent and hyperbolic tangent functions, .... [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 computer programmer
A computer programmer, sometimes referred to as a software developer, a software engineer, a programmer or a coder, is a person who creates computer programs — often for larger computer software.
A programmer is someone who writes/creates ...; 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 that simplifies the process of manufacturing textiles with such complex patterns as brocade, damask and matelassé. The resulting ensemble of the loom and Jacquard machine is then called a J ... weaves flowers and leaves."
Babbage visited Turin
Turin ( , Piedmontese: ; it, Torino ) is a city and an important business and cultural centre in Northern Italy. It is the capital city of Piedmont and of the Metropolitan City of Turin, and was the first Italian capital from 1861 to 1865. Th ... in 1840 at the invitation of Giovanni Plana, who had developed in 1831 an analog computing machine that served as a perpetual calendar. Here in 1840 in Turin, Babbage gave the only public explanation and lectures about the Analytical Engine. In 1842 Charles Wheatstone
Sir Charles Wheatstone FRS FRSE DCL LLD (6 February 1802 – 19 October 1875), was an English scientist and inventor of many scientific breakthroughs of the Victorian era, including the English concertina, the stereoscope (a device for d ... 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
Giuseppe Mazzini (, , ; 22 June 1805 – 10 March 1872) was an Italian politician, journalist, and activist for the unification of Italy (Risorgimento) and spearhead of the Italian revolutionary movement. His efforts helped bring about the in ....
Per Georg Scheutz
Pehr (Per) Georg Scheutz (23 September 1785 – 22 May 1873) was a Swedish lawyer, translator, and inventor, who is now best known for his pioneering work in computer technology.
Scheutz studied law at Lund University, graduating in 1805. He ... 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
Martin Wiberg (September 4, 1826 – December 29, 1905) was a Swedish inventor. He enrolled at Lund University in 1845 and became a Doctor of Philosophy in 1850.
He is known as a computer pioneer for his c. 1859 (1857-1860) invention of a machi ... (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 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 hoped to complete it by the 150th anniversary of Babbage's death, in 2021.
Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), also written as micro-electro-mechanical systems (or microelectronic and microelectromechanical systems) and the related micromechatronics and microsystems constitute the technology of microscopic devices, ... and nanotechnology
Nanotechnology, also shortened to nanotech, is the use of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale for industrial purposes. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology referred to the particular technological goal o ... 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
''The Economist'' is a British weekly newspaper printed in demitab format and published digitally. It focuses on current affairs, international business, politics, technology, and culture. Based in London, the newspaper is owned by The Econo ...'' 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 cultural icons section of the newly designed British passport
A British passport is a travel document issued by the United Kingdom or other British dependencies and territories to individuals holding any form of British nationality. It grants the bearer international passage in accordance with visa r ... in 2015.
On 25 July 1814, Babbage married Georgiana Whitmore, sister of British parliamentarian William Wolryche-Whitmore, at St. Michael's Church in Teignmouth, Devon.
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, Georgiana Whitmore, Dugald Bromhead and Henry Prevost – survived childhood. Charles' wife Georgiana died in 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
Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1636 as Harvard College and named for its first benefactor, the Puritan clergyman John Harvard, it is the oldest institution of highe ... 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
Kensal Green Cemetery is a cemetery in the Kensal Green area of Queens Park in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, England. Inspired by Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, it was founded by the barrister George Frederi .... According to Horsley, Babbage died "of renal inadequacy, secondary to cystitis
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that affects part of the urinary tract. When it affects the lower urinary tract it is known as a bladder infection (cystitis) and when it affects the upper urinary tract it is known as a kidne ...." He had declined both a knighthood and baronetcy. He also argued against hereditary peerages, favouring life peerage
In the United Kingdom, life peers are appointed members of the peerage whose titles cannot be inherited, in contrast to hereditary peers. In modern times, life peerages, always created at the rank of baron, are created under the Life Peerages A ...s instead.
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 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 is Earth's only natural satellite. It is the fifth largest satellite in the Solar System and the largest and most massive relative to its parent planet, with a diameter about one-quarter that of Earth (comparable to the width o ... crater Babbage
* The Charles Babbage Institute
The IT History Society (ITHS) is an organization that supports the history and scholarship of information technology by encouraging, fostering, and facilitating archival and historical research. Formerly known as the Charles Babbage Foundation, ..., an information technology archive and research center at the University of Minnesota
The University of Minnesota, formally the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, (UMN Twin Cities, the U of M, or Minnesota) is a public land-grant research university in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States. ...
* The Charles Babbage Premium, an annual computing award
* British Rail
British Railways (BR), which from 1965 traded as British Rail, was a state-owned company that operated most of the overground rail transport in Great Britain from 1948 to 1997. It was formed from the nationalisation of the Big Four British ra ... named a locomotive
A locomotive or engine is a rail transport vehicle that provides the motive power for a train. If a locomotive is capable of carrying a payload, it is usually rather referred to as a multiple unit, motor coach, railcar or power car; the ... after him in the 1990s
* The Babbage Building at the University of Plymouth
The University of Plymouth is a public research university based predominantly in Plymouth, England, where the main campus is located, but the university has campuses and affiliated colleges across South West England. With students, it is the ..., where the university's school of computing is based
* The Babbage programming language for GEC 4000 series minicomputer
A minicomputer, or colloquially mini, is a class of smaller general purpose computers that developed in the mid-1960s and sold at a much lower price than mainframe and mid-size computers from IBM and its direct competitors. In a 1970 survey, ' ...s
* "Babbage", '' The Economist
''The Economist'' is a British weekly newspaper printed in demitab format and published digitally. It focuses on current affairs, international business, politics, technology, and culture. Based in London, the newspaper is owned by The Econo ...''s Science and Technology blog.
* The former chain retail computer and video-games store "Babbage's" (now GameStop
GameStop Corp. is an American video game, consumer electronics, and gaming merchandise retailer. The company is headquartered in Grapevine, Texas (a suburb of Dallas), and is the largest video game retailer worldwide. , the company operates 4,5 ...) was named after him.
In fiction and film
Babbage frequently appears in
Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction that incorporates retrofuturistic technology and aesthetics inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the Victorian er ... 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 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
Kathryn Moira Beaton (born 8 September 1983) is a Canadian comics artist best known as the creator of the comic strip '' Hark! A Vagrant'', which ran from 2007 to 2018. Her other major works include the children's books '' The Princess and the P ..., cartoonist of webcomic '' Hark! A Vagrant'', devoted one of her comic strips to Charles and Georgiana Babbage.
* The '' Doctor Who
''Doctor Who'' is a British science fiction television series broadcast by the BBC since 1963. The series depicts the adventures of a Time Lord called the Doctor, an extraterrestrial being who appears to be human. The Doctor explores the ...'' 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
Cambridge University Press is the university press of the University of Cambridge. Granted letters patent by King Henry VIII in 1534, it is the oldest university press in the world. It is also the King's Printer.
Cambridge University Pres ... 2009, .)
* (The LOCOMAT site contains a reconstruction of this table.)
* [C. J. D. Roberts, Compiler.]
Charles Babbage's Lectures On Astronomy
* Babbage's congruence
List of pioneers in computer science
This is a list of people who made transformative breakthroughs in the creation, development and imagining of what computers could do.
: ''To arrange the list by date or person (ascending or descending), click that column's small "up-do ...
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's (of
AutoCAD is a commercial computer-aided design (CAD) and drafting software application. Developed and marketed by Autodesk, AutoCAD was first released in December 1982 as a desktop app running on microcomputers with internal graphics controllers ... fame) comprehensive catalogue of the complete technical works relating to Babbage's machine.
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
The Linda Hall Library is a privately endowed American library of science, engineering and technology located in Kansas City, Missouri, sitting "majestically on a urban arboretum." It is the "largest independently funded public library of sc ...
in the database
zbMATH Open, formerly Zentralblatt MATH, is a major reviewing service providing reviews and abstracts for articles in pure and applied mathematics, produced by the Berlin office of FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz Institute for Information Infrastruct ...
The 'difference engine' built by Georg & Edvard Scheutz in 1843
19th-century English mathematicians
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 computer scientists
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