Charles Babbage

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Charles Babbage
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{{short description|English mathematician, philosopher, and engineer (1791-1871)}}{{Redirect|Babbage|other uses|Babbage (disambiguation)}}{{pp-pc1|small=yes}}{{pp-move-indef}}{{EngvarB|date=April 2014}}{{Use dmy dates|date=April 2014}}

|birth_place = London (likely Southwark)df=yes10179126}}|death_place = Marylebone, London, UK|nationality = English|citizenship = British|religion = Protestant|field = Mathematics, engineering, political economy, computer science|work_institutions = Trinity College, Cambridge|alma_mater = Peterhouse, Cambridge|known_for = Difference engine|influences = Robert Woodhouse, Gaspard Monge, John Herschel|influenced = Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, Ada Lovelace|honorific_suffix = FRS|footnotes =|signature = Charles Babbage Signature.svg}}Charles Babbage {{post-nominals|country=GBR|KH|FRS}} ({{IPAc-en|ˈ|b|æ|b|ɪ|dÊ’}}; 26 December 1791 â€“ 18 October 1871) was an English polymath.BOOK, Terence Whalen, Edgar Allan Poe and the masses: the political economy of literature in antebellum America,weblink 18 April 2013, 1999, Princeton University Press, 978-0-691-00199-9, 254, A mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer, Babbage originated the concept of a digital programmable computer.BOOK,weblink The Modern History of Computing (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy), Copeland, B. Jack, Dec 18, 2000, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1 March 2017, The Modern History of Computing, Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, Considered by some to be a "father of the computer",BOOK, Halacy, Daniel Stephen, Charles Babbage, Father of the Computer, 1970, Crowell-Collier Press, 978-0-02-741370-0, WEB,weblink Charles Babbage Institute: Who Was Charles Babbage?,, BOOK, Swade, Doron, The Difference Engine: Charles Babbage and the Quest to Build the First Computer., Penguin, 2002, Babbage is credited with inventing the first mechanical computer 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.JOURNAL, Newman, M.H.A., General Principles of the Design of All-Purpose Computing Machines, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series A, 195, 1042, 1948, 271–274, 1948RSPSA.195..271N, 10.1098/rspa.1948.0129, His varied work in other fields has led him to be described as "pre-eminent" among the many polymaths of his century.Parts of Babbage's incomplete mechanisms are on display in the Science Museum 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.

Early life

(File:Portrait of Charles Babbage (4672397).jpg|thumb|upright|Engraving of Charles Babbage dated 1833)Babbage's birthplace is disputed, but according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography he was most likely born at 44 Crosby Row, Walworth Road, London, England.ODNB, 962, Babbage, Charles, Doron, Swade, A blue plaque on the junction of Larcom Street and Walworth Road commemorates the event.{{openplaque | 1140 }}His date of birth was given in his obituary in The 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, Newington, London, shows that Babbage was baptised on 6 January 1792, supporting a birth year of 1791.{{harvnb|Hyman|1982|p=5}}BOOK, Moseley, Maboth, Irascible Genius, The Life of Charles Babbage, Henry Regnery, Chicago, 1964, 29,weblink harv, NEWS, s:The Times/The Late Mr. Charles Babbage, F.R.S., The Late Mr. Charles Babbage, F.R.S]], The Times, UK, (File:Charles Babbage by Antoine Claudet c1847-51-crop.jpg|thumb|upright|Babbage c. 1850)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, London, in 1801.WEB, Members Constituencies Parliaments Surveys,weblink Praed, William (1747–1833), of Tyringham, Bucks. and Trevethoe, nr. St. Ives, Cornw.,, 2014-06-07, 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, South Devon, but his health forced him back to private tutors for a time.{{harvnb|Moseley|1964|p=39}}Babbage then joined the 30-student Holmwood Academy, in Baker Street, Enfield, Middlesex, 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; through him Babbage encountered Charles Simeon and his evangelical followers, but the tuition was not what he needed.BOOK, Anthony Hyman, Charles Babbage: Pioneer Of The Computer,weblink 18 April 2013, 1 January 1985, Princeton University Press, 978-0-691-02377-9, 17, He was brought home, to study at the Totnes school: this was at age 16 or 17.BOOK, Bruce Collier, James MacLachlan, Charles Babbage: And the Engines of Perfection,weblink 18 April 2013, 28 September 2000, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-514287-7, 11, The second was an Oxford tutor, under whom Babbage reached a level in Classics sufficient to be accepted by Cambridge.

At the University of Cambridge

Babbage arrived at Trinity College, Cambridge, in October 1810.{{acad | id = BBG810C | name = Babbage, Charles }} He was already self-taught in some parts of contemporary mathematics;BOOK, E. S. Leedham-Green, A Concise History of the University of Cambridge,weblink 18 April 2013, 26 September 1996, Cambridge University Press, 978-0-521-43978-7, 142–, he had read in Robert Woodhouse, Joseph Louis Lagrange, and Marie Agnesi. As a result, he was disappointed in the standard mathematical instruction available at the university.Babbage, John Herschel, 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.BOOK, Hofstadter, Douglas R., Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, Penguin Books, 1979, 2000, 726, Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, WEB, Charles Babbage'S Computer Engines,weblink 13 March 2012, yes,weblink" title="">weblink 30 April 2013, dmy-all, In 1812 Babbage transferred to Peterhouse, Cambridge. 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 on astronomy in 1815, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1816.BOOK, James Essinger, Jacquard's Web, 2007, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-280578-2, 59 and 98, 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 College; he had recommendations from James Ivory and John Playfair, but lost out to Henry Walter.BOOK, Raymond Flood, Adrian Rice, Robin Wilson, Mathematics in Victorian Britain,weblink 25 April 2013, 29 September 2011, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-960139-4, 145, In 1819, Babbage and Herschel visited Paris and the Society of Arcueil, meeting leading French mathematicians and physicists.BOOK, George Green: Mathematician and Physicist, 1793–1841: The Background to His Life and Work,weblink 8 May 2013, 2001, SIAM, 978-0-89871-463-0, 255 note 19, That year Babbage applied to be professor at the University of Edinburgh, with the recommendation of Pierre Simon Laplace; the post went to William Wallace.BOOK, Roger Hahn, Pierre Simon Laplace: 1749 – 1827; a Determined Scientist,weblink 8 May 2013, 2005, Harvard University Press, 978-0-674-01892-1, 295 note 34, ODNB, 28545, Wallace, William, Maria, Panteki, BOOK, The Edinburgh magazine, and literary miscellany, a new series of The Scots magazine,weblink 8 May 2013, 1819, 369, With Herschel, Babbage worked on the electrodynamics of Arago's rotations, publishing in 1825. Their explanations were only transitional, being picked up and broadened by 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, staying close to Ampère's force law.BOOK, L. Pearce Williams, Michael Faraday, 1965, Da Capo Press, 978-0-306-80299-7, 170–2, 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.ODNB, 1523, Barrett, George, Robert, Brown, This interest followed a project to set up an insurance company, prompted by Francis Baily and mooted in 1824, but not carried out.BOOK, Bruce Collier, James MacLachlan, Charles Babbage: And the Engines of Perfection,weblink 18 April 2013, 28 September 2000, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-514287-7, 29–30, Babbage did calculate actuarial tables for that scheme, using Equitable Society mortality data from 1762 onwards.BOOK, Anthony Hyman, Charles Babbage: Pioneer Of The Computer,weblink 18 April 2013, 1 January 1985, Princeton University Press, 978-0-691-02377-9, 59, 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 in London, and founded a large family.BOOK, James, Remarkable Engineers,weblink 26 April 2013, Cambridge University Press, 978-1-139-48625-5, 45, 2010-02-25, On his father's death in 1827, Babbage inherited a large estate (value around £100,000, equivalent to £{{Format price|{{Inflation|UK|100000|1827}}}} or ${{Format price|{{To USD|{{Inflation|UK|100000|1827}}|GBR}}}} 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, foreshadowing a later visit to Piedmont. In April 1828 he was in Rome, and relying on Herschel to manage the difference engine project, when he heard that he had become professor at Cambridge, a position he had three times failed to obtain (in 1820, 1823 and 1826).BOOK, Kevin C. Knox, From Newton to Hawking: A History of Cambridge University's Lucasian Professors of Mathematics,weblink 26 April 2013, 6 November 2003, Cambridge University Press, 978-0-521-66310-6, 242 and 258–72,

Royal Astronomical Society

Babbage was instrumental in founding the Royal Astronomical Society in 1820, initially known as the Astronomical Society of London.WEB,weblink Babbage biography,, 2017-12-21, Its original aims were to reduce astronomical calculations to a more standard form, and to circulate data.BOOK, Martin Campbell-Kelly, The History of Mathematical Tables: From Sumer to Spreadsheets,weblink 19 April 2013, 2 October 2003, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-850841-0, 8, 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 and astronomical tables".Babbage's motivation to overcome errors in tables by mechanisation has been a commonplace since Dionysius Lardner wrote about it in 1834 in the Edinburgh Review (under Babbage's guidance).BOOK, Raymond Flood, Adrian Rice, Robin Wilson, Mathematics in Victorian Britain,weblink 26 April 2013, 29 September 2011, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-162794-1, 34, BOOK, Harro Maas, William Stanley Jevons and the Making of Modern Economics,weblink 27 April 2013, 4 April 2005, Cambridge University Press, 978-0-521-82712-6, 201, 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.BOOK, M. Norton Wise, The values of precision,weblink 25 April 2013, 17 March 1997, Princeton University Press, 978-0-691-01601-6, 320, 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, who had died in 1820.BOOK, Eleanor Robson, Jacqueline Stedall, The Oxford Handbook of the History of Mathematics,weblink 25 April 2013, 18 December 2008, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-160744-8, xxxiv, File:Difference engine plate 1853.jpg|thumb|A portion of the difference enginedifference engineBabbage studied the requirements to establish a modern postal system, with his friend Thomas Frederick Colby, 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 PostBOOK, Anthony Hyman, Charles Babbage: Pioneer Of The Computer,weblink 18 April 2013, 1 January 1985, Princeton University Press, 978-0-691-02377-9, 115, in 1839 and 1840. Colby was another of the founding group of the Society.BOOK, Anthony Hyman, Charles Babbage: Pioneer Of The Computer,weblink 26 April 2013, 1 January 1985, Princeton University Press, 978-0-691-02377-9, 45, 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 baseline.BOOK, Royal Institution of Great Britain, Proceedings,weblink 26 April 2013, 1858, 518,

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.BOOK, Constructing a Bridge: An Exploration of Engineering Culture, Design, and Research in Nineteenth-century France and America,weblink 26 April 2013, 1997, MIT Press, 978-0-262-11217-8, 110, Reference to Lagrange in calculus terms marks out the application of what are now called formal power series. British mathematicians had used them from about 1730 to 1760. As re-introduced, they were not simply applied as notations in differential calculus. They opened up the fields of functional equations (including the difference equations fundamental to the difference engine) and operator (D-module) methods for differential equations. 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, and pushed to the point of diminishing returns. The Cauchy concept of limit was kept at bay.BOOK, Niccolò Guicciardini, The Development of Newtonian Calculus in Britain, 1700–1800,weblink 26 April 2013, 13 November 2003, Cambridge University Press, 978-0-521-52484-1, 138, Woodhouse had already founded this second "British Lagrangian School" with its treatment of Taylor series as formal.BOOK, Dov M. Gabbay, John Woods, British Logic in the Nineteenth Century,weblink 26 April 2013, 10 March 2008, Elsevier, 978-0-08-055701-4, 403–4, In this context function composition 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 (1697). Herschel found the method impressive, Babbage knew of it, and it was later noted by Ada Lovelace as compatible with the analytical engine.Craik 2005, pp. 122–3. In the period to 1820 Babbage worked intensively on functional equations in general, and resisted both conventional finite differences 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, i.e. composing a function with itself, possibly many times. Writing in a major paper on functional equations in the Philosophical Transactions (1815/6), Babbage said his starting point was work of Gaspard Monge.BOOK, Jeremy J. Gray, Karen Hunger Parshall, Episodes in the History of Modern Algebra (1800–1950),weblink 26 April 2013, 31 August 2011, American Mathematical Soc., 978-0-8218-7257-4, 19,


From 1828 to 1839 Babbage was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge. Not a conventional resident don, 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 in 1832.WEB, Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B,weblink American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 28 April 2011, Babbage was out of sympathy with colleagues: George Biddell Airy, his predecessor as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge,George Biddell Airy#Biography thought an issue should be made of his lack of interest in lecturing. Babbage planned to lecture in 1831 on political economy. 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 found the programme unacceptable. A controversy Babbage had with Richard Jones lasted for six years.BOOK, Kevin C. Knox, From Newton to Hawking: A History of Cambridge University's Lucasian Professors of Mathematics,weblink 19 April 2013, 6 November 2003, Cambridge University Press, 978-0-521-66310-6, 284–5, He never did give a lecture.{{ThoemmesBritish19C|Babbage, Charles|35}}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, a broader political franchise, and inclusion of manufacturers as stakeholders.BOOK, Kevin C. Knox, From Newton to Hawking: A History of Cambridge University's Lucasian Professors of Mathematics,weblink 25 April 2013, 6 November 2003, Cambridge University Press, 978-0-521-66310-6, 243, 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 and Christopher Temple, split the vote.WEB, Members Constituencies Parliaments Surveys,weblink, Middlesex County 1820–1832,, 2014-06-07, BOOK, Sylvanus Urban, The Gentleman's Magazine,weblink 25 April 2013, 1838, 659, 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.BOOK, Charles Babbage, Passages from the life of a philosopher,weblink 1 May 2013, 1864, Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green, 190–1, In 1834 Babbage finished last among four.BOOK, Crowther, J. G., Scientific Types, 1968, Barrie & Rockliff, London, 266, 978-0-248-99729-4, BOOK, Hyman, Anthony, Charles Babbage, Pioneer of the Computer, 1982, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 82–7, 978-0-691-08303-2, harv, {{harvnb|Moseley|1964|pp=120–1}}- Note some confusion as to the dates. In 1832, Babbage, Herschel and Ivory were appointed Knights of the Royal Guelphic Order, however they were not subsequently made knights bachelor to entitle them to the prefix Sir, which often came with appointments to that foreign order (though Herschel was later created a baronet).{{Citation |last=Shaw |first=William Arthur |authorlink=William Arthur Shaw |year=1906 |title=The Knights of England: A complete record from the earliest time to the present day of the knights of all the orders of chivalry in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and of knights bachelors, incorporating a complete list of knights bachelors dubbed in Ireland |volume=2 |location=London |publisher=Sherratt and Hughes|url=}}

"Declinarians", learned societies and the BAAS

(File:Babbage - Letter to sir Humphry Davy on the application of machinery to the purpose of calculating and printing mathematical tables, 1822 - 721620.tif|thumb|Letter to Sir Humphry Davy, 1822)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 as President of the Royal Society, which Babbage wished to reform.BOOK, Anthony Hyman, Charles Babbage: Pioneer Of The Computer,weblink 19 April 2013, 1 January 1985, Princeton University Press, 978-0-691-02377-9, 88, 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.BOOK, James, Remarkable Engineers,weblink 27 April 2013, Cambridge University Press, 978-1-139-48625-5, 47, 2010-02-25, Michael Faraday had a reply written, by Gerrit Moll, as On the Alleged Decline of Science in England (1831).BOOK, Richard Holmes (biographer), Richard Holmes, The Age of Wonder, 2008, Pantheon Books, 978-0-375-42222-5, 437–40, On the front of the Royal Society Babbage had no impact, with the bland election of the Duke of Sussex 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 writing in the Quarterly Review as another leader; with the barb that both Babbage and Brewster had received public money.BOOK, The Mechanics' Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazette,weblink 27 April 2013, 1831, M. Salmon, 373–4, 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 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.BOOK, Mary Poovey, A History of the Modern Fact: Problems of Knowledge in the Sciences of Wealth and Society,weblink 26 April 2013, 15 November 1998, University of Chicago Press, 978-0-226-67526-8, 309, BOOK, Dov M. Gabbay, John Woods, British Logic in the Nineteenth Century,weblink 26 April 2013, 10 March 2008, Elsevier, 978-0-08-055701-4, 164, BOOK, Patricia Jones, Population Malthus, 1979, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 0 7100 0266 1, 445, Babbage was its public face, backed by Richard Jones and Robert Malthus.BOOK, James P. Henderson, Early Mathematical Economics: William Whewell and the British case,weblink 26 April 2013, 1996, Rowman & Littlefield, 978-0-8476-8201-0, 33,

On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures

(File:Babbage - On the economy of machinery and manufactures, 1835 - 5864499.tif|thumb|On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, 1835)(File:Babbage sign language.jpg|thumb|Babbage's notation for machine parts, explanation from On a method of expressing by signs the action of machinery (1827) of his "Mechanical Notation", invented for his own use in understanding the work on the difference engine, and an influence on the conception of the analytical engineBOOK, Michael Lingren, Glory and Failure: The Difference Engines of Johann Müller, Charles Babbage and Georg and Edvard Scheutz,weblink 26 April 2013, 1990, MIT Press, 978-0-262-12146-0, 54, )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.{{ThoemmesBritish19C|Babbage, Charles|39}} 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 and Andrew Ure.BOOK, Charles Manby, Minutes of the Proceedings of the Institute of Civil Engineers,weblink 26 April 2013, 1846, 57, 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.BOOK, M. Lucertini, Ana Millán Gasca, Fernando Nicolò, Technological Concepts and Mathematical Models in the Evolution of Modern Engineering Systems,weblink 26 April 2013, 2004, Springer, 978-3-7643-6940-8, 30, The book sold well, and quickly went to a fourth edition (1836).BOOK, Mauro F. Guillén, Mauro F. Guillén, Models of Management: Work, Authority, and Organization in a Comparative Perspective,weblink 18 April 2013, 15 October 1994, University of Chicago Press, 978-0-226-31036-7, 207, 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.BOOK, Maxine Berg, The Machinery Question and the Making of Political Economy 1815–1848,weblink 22 April 2013, 4 February 1982, CUP Archive, 978-0-521-28759-3, 181, The book also contained ideas on rational design in factories, and profit sharing.BOOK, Bruce E. Kaufman, The Global Evolution of Industrial Relations: Events, Ideas and the IIRA,weblink 18 April 2013, 2004, Academic Foundation, 978-81-7188-544-2, 66,

"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.BOOK, Julio Segura, Carlos Rodríguez Braun, An Eponymous Dictionary of Economics: A Guide To Laws And Theorems Named After Economists,weblink 18 April 2013, 2004, Edward Elgar Publishing, 978-1-84542-360-5, 13, The term was introduced in 1974 by Harry Braverman.BOOK, Work,weblink 27 April 2013, 30 December 2011, Polity, 978-0-7456-4678-7, 39, Related formulations are the "principle of multiples" of Philip Sargant Florence, and the "balance of processes".BOOK, P. Sargant Florence, The Logic of British and American Industry: A Realistic Analysis of Economic Structure and Government,weblink 8 May 2013, 1953, Routledge, 978-0-415-31350-6, 51, BOOK, The Theory of the Growth of the Firm [Electronic book],weblink 8 May 2013, 1995, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-828977-7, 68, 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.BOOK, Giddens, Anthony, Held, David, Classes, Power and Conflict: Classical and Contemporary Debates,weblink 18 April 2013, 1982, University of California Press, 978-0-520-04627-6, 155, 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.BOOK, Guang-Zhen Sun, Readings in the Economics of the Division of Labor: The classical tradition,weblink 26 April 2013, 2005, World Scientific, 978-981-270-127-5, 10, His view of human capital was restricted to minimising the time period for recovery of training costs.BOOK, Pere Mir Artigues, Josep Gonza ́lez Calvet, Funds, Flows and Time: An Alternative Approach to the Microeconomic Analysis of Productive Activities,weblink 27 April 2013, 2007, Springer, 978-3-540-71291-6, 72 note 15,


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.BOOK, James A. Secord, James A. Secord, Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation,weblink 19 April 2013, 2000, University of Chicago Press, 978-0-226-74410-0, 52, He went as far as to name the organisers of the trade's restrictive practices.BOOK, Mary Poovey, Making a Social Body: British Cultural Formation, 1830–1864,weblink 22 April 2013, 15 November 1995, University of Chicago Press, 978-0-226-67524-4, 193 note 43, Twenty years later he attended a meeting hosted by John Chapman to campaign against the Booksellers Association, still a cartel.BOOK, Rosemary Ashton, G. H. Lewes: An Unconventional Victorian, 2000, Pimlico, 978-0-7126-6689-3, 128,


It has been written that "what Arthur Young was to agriculture, Charles Babbage was to the factory visit and machinery".JOURNAL, Ashworth, William J., 1996, Memory, Efficiency, and Symbolic Analysis: Charles Babbage, John Herschel, and the Industrial Mind, Isis, 87, 4, 629–653, 235196, 10.1086/357650, Babbage's theories are said to have influenced the layout of the 1851 Great Exhibition,BOOK, PeterH Hoffenberg, An Empire on Display: English, Indian, and Australian Exhibitions from the Crystal Palace to the Great War,weblink 18 April 2013, 2001, University of California Press, 978-0-520-21891-8, 178, and his views had a strong effect on his contemporary George Julius Poulett Scrope.BOOK, Maxine Berg, The Machinery Question and the Making of Political Economy 1815–1848,weblink 25 April 2013, 4 February 1982, CUP Archive, 978-0-521-28759-3, 127, 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.BOOK, Ákos Róna-Tas, The Great Surprise of the Small Transformation: The Demise of Communism and the Rise of the Private Sector of Hungary,weblink 27 April 2013, 1997, University of Michigan Press, 978-0-472-10795-7, 20, 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.BOOK, Ben Fine, Alfredo Saad-Filho, Marco Boffo, The Elgar Companion to Marxist Economics,weblink 27 April 2013, 2012, Edward Elgar Publishing, 978-1-78100-122-6, 190, John Ruskin went further, to oppose completely what manufacturing in Babbage's sense stood for.BOOK, Sympathy of Things: Ruskin and the Ecology of Design,weblink 8 May 2013, 2011, V2_ publishing, 978-90-5662-827-7, 52–3, Babbage also affected the economic thinking of John Stuart Mill.BOOK, Patrice L. R. Higonnet, David Saul Landes, Rosovsky Henry, Henry Rosovsky, Favorites Or Fortune: Technology, Growth, and Economic Development Since the Industrial Revolution,weblink 7 May 2013, 1991, Harvard University Press, 978-0-674-29520-9, 401, 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.George Jacob Holyoake, The History of Co-operation in England: its literature and its advocates, vol. 2 (1879) pp. 228–32; by Babbage and Ure were published in French translation in 1830;BOOK, Thierry Pillon, François Vatin, Traité de sociologie du travail, 164, 2003, Octarès, On the Economy of Machinery was translated in 1833 into French by Édouard Biot, and into German the same year by Gottfried Friedenberg.BOOK, Anthony Hyman, Charles Babbage: Pioneer of the Computer,weblink 1 January 1985, Princeton University Press, 978-0-691-02377-9, 122, 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".BOOK, François Vatin, Morale industrielle et calcul économique dans le premier XIXème siècle: L'économie industrielle de Claude-Lucien Bergery (1787–1863),weblink 7 May 2013, May 2007, Editions L'Harmattan, 978-2-296-17103-9, 123, fr, William Jevons connected Babbage's "economy of labour" with his own labour experiments of 1870.BOOK, Philip Mirowski, Natural Images in Economic Thought: Markets Read in Tooth and Claw,weblink 27 April 2013, 29 July 1994, Cambridge University Press, 978-0-521-47884-7, 206, The Babbage principle is an inherent assumption in Frederick Winslow Taylor's scientific management.BOOK, Yeheskel Hasenfeld, Andrew Delano Abbott, Human Services as Complex Organizations,weblink 18 April 2013, 1 April 1992, SAGE Publications, 978-0-8039-4065-9, 211, Mary Boole, the wife of Babbage's collaborator George Boole claimed that there was profound influence {{mdash}} via her uncle George Everest {{mdash}} of Indian thought in general and Indian logic, in particular, on him and on 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.BOOK, Genesis and Geology: A Study in the Relations of Scientific Thought, Natural Theology, and Social Opinion in Great Britain, 1790–1850,weblink 19 April 2013, 1996, Harvard University Press, 978-0-674-34481-5, 247, He preferred the conception of creation in which a God-given natural law dominated, removing the need for continuous "contrivance".BOOK, John G. Trapani, Truth matters: essays in honor of Jacques Maritain,weblink 19 April 2013, 2004, CUA Press, 978-0-9669226-6-0, 109, The book is a work of natural theology, and incorporates extracts from related correspondence of Herschel with Charles Lyell.Note I, in, Babbage, Charles. 1838. The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise. 2d edn. London: John Murray. 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 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."Babbage, Ninth Bridgewater Treatise. Chapter V. Further View of the same Subject. The Victorian Web.The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise was quoted extensively in Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation.BOOK, James A. Secord, Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation,weblink 19 April 2013, 2000, University of Chicago Press, 978-0-226-74410-0, 107, The parallel with Babbage's computing machines is made explicit, as allowing plausibility to the theory that transmutation of species could be pre-programmed.BOOK, Robert Chambers, Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation and Other Evolutionary Writings,weblink 19 April 2013, 15 August 1994, University of Chicago Press, 978-0-226-10073-9, xvi–xvii, File:Babbage curve singular points.png|thumb|Plate from the Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, showing a parametric family of algebraic curvealgebraic curveJonar Ganeri, author of Indian Logic, believes Babbage may have been influenced by Indian thought; one possible route would be through Henry Thomas Colebrooke.BOOK, Jonar Ganeri, Indian Logic: A Reader,weblink 19 April 2013, 2001, Routledge, 978-0-7007-1329-5, 7, 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!BOOK, Boole, Mary Everest, Indian Thought and Western Science in the Nineteenth Century, Cobham, E.M., Dummer, E.S., Boole, Mary Everest "Collected Works", Daniel, London, 1931, 947–967,weblink

Religious views

Babbage was raised in the Protestant form of the Christian faith, his family having inculcated in him an orthodox form of worship.s:Passages from the Life of a Philosopher/Chapter II#8|Passages from the Life of a Philosopher]] (1864), p. 8. 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.s:Passages from the Life of a Philosopher/Chapter XXX#404|Passages from the Life of a Philosopher]] (1864), pp. 404–405In 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:s:Passages from the Life of a Philosopher/Chapter XXX#396|Passages from the Life of a Philosopher]] (1864), p. 396
  1. A priori or mystical experience
  2. From Revelation
  3. 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.Smithsonian Institution. (1846). Annual report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution. Washington Government Printing Office. Smithsonian Institutions:Passages from the Life of a Philosopher/Chapter XXX#403|Passages from the Life of a Philosopher]] (1864), The Athanasian Creed, p. 403: "In the course of my inquiries, I met with the work upon the Trinity, by Dr. Samuel Clarke. This I carefully examined, and although very far from being satisfied, I ceased from further inquiry. This change arose probably from my having acquired the much more valuable work of the same author, on the Being and Attributes of God. This I studied, and felt that its doctrine was much more intelligible and satisfactory than that of the former work. I may now state, as the result of a long life spent in studying the works of the Creator, that I am satisfied they afford far more satisfactory and more convincing proofs of the existence of a supreme Being than any evidence transmitted through human testimony can possibly supply." Advocating for natural theology, he wrote:Like Samuel Vince, Babbage also wrote a defence of the belief in divine miracles.Pickover, Clifford A. (2009). The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. p. 218 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."Babbage, Charles. (1864) s:Passages from the Life of a Philosopher/Appendix#488|Passages from the Life of a Philosopher]], Appendix: "Miracles", p. 488 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

(File:Charles Babbage 1860.jpg|thumb|right|The Illustrated London News (4 November 1871).BOOK, Hook, Diana H., Jeremy M. Norman, Michael R. Williams, Origins of cyberspace: a library on the history of computing, networking, and telecommunications, Norman Publishing, 2002, 161, 165,weblink 978-0-930405-85-4, )The British Association was consciously modelled on the Deutsche Naturforscher-Versammlung, founded in 1822.BOOK, Andrew Ede, Lesley B. Cormack, A History of Science in Society: From the Scientific Revolution to the Present,weblink 8 May 2013, 2012, University of Toronto Press, 978-1-4426-0452-0, 224, It rejected romantic science as well as metaphysics, and started to entrench the divisions of science from literature, and professionals from amateurs.BOOK, Daniel Brown, The Poetry of Victorian Scientists: Style, Science and Nonsense,weblink 8 May 2013, 31 January 2013, Cambridge University Press, 978-1-107-02337-6, 6, 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.BOOK, Discovering Water: James Watt, Henry Cavendish, and the Nineteenth Century 'Water Controversy',weblink 1 May 2013, 2004, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 978-0-7546-3177-4, 136–7, BOOK, Iwan Rhys Morus, Bodies/Machines,weblink 8 May 2013, 1 December 2002, Berg, 978-1-85973-695-1, 44, 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.BOOK, Kevin C. Knox, From Newton to Hawking: A History of Cambridge University's Lucasian Professors of Mathematics,weblink 26 April 2013, 6 November 2003, Cambridge University Press, 978-0-521-66310-6, 287,

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".BOOK, Mario Biagioli, The Science studies reader,weblink 1 May 2013, 1999, Routledge, Chapman & Hall, Incorporated, 978-0-415-91868-8, 459–60, 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 sees these as reflecting in part Babbage's "eccentric enthusiasms".BOOK, Ian Hacking, The Taming of Chance,weblink 1 May 2013, 31 August 1990, Cambridge University Press, 978-0-521-38884-9, 55–60, 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".BOOK, Report of the Board of Regents,weblink 1 May 2013, 1857, The Institution, 289–302, 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.BOOK, David F Noble, America by Design: Science, Technology, and the Rise of Corporate Capitalism David F. Noble,weblink 8 May 2013, 1 September 1979, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-502618-4, 71,

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.BOOK, Bruce Collier, James MacLachlan, Charles Babbage: And the Engines of Perfection,weblink 23 April 2013, 28 September 2000, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-514287-7, 28–9, Babbage provided an introduction for Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1830, for a contact with the proposed Bristol & Birmingham Railway.BOOK, L. T. C. Rolt, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, 1982, Penguin Books, 0 14 02 1195 0, 74, He carried out studies, around 1838, to show the superiority of the broad gauge for railways, used by Brunel's Great Western Railway.{{harvnb|Babbage|1864|pp=317–8}}JOURNAL, 1149–1152, 2727614, Charles Babbage (1791 + 200 = 1991), Journal of Economic Literature, 29, 3, Stigler, George J., 1991, 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;BOOK, Lee, John A. N., International biographical dictionary of computer pioneers, 1995, Taylor & Francis US, 60, 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.WEB,weblink Babbage, Benjamin Herschel, Bright Sparcs Biographical entry, 15 May 2008, 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.ODNB, 37617, Jones, Thomas Wharton, W. F., Bynum, WEB,weblink Medical Discoveries, Ophthalmoscope,, 29 January 2009,


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 realized 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.BOOK, Introduction to Cryptography: With Mathematical Foundations in Computer Implementations,weblink 19 April 2013, 2011, CRC Press, 978-1-4398-1763-6, 187, 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.BOOK, Kahn, David L., The Codebreakers: The Story of Secret Writing, 1996, Scribner, New York, 978-0-684-83130-5,
However, in 1854, Babbage published the solution of a Vigenère cipher, which had been published previously in the Journal of the Society of Arts.See:
  • J. H. B. Thwaites (Aug. 11, 1854) "Secret, or cypher writing," Journal of the Society of Arts, 2 (90) : 663-664.
  • "C." (Charles Babbage) (Sept. 1, 1854), "Mr. Thwaites's cypher," Journal of the Society of Arts, 2 (93) : 707-708.
  • JOURNAL, Thwaites, John H. B., Secret or cypher writing, Journal of the Society of Arts, 15 September 1854, 2, 95, 732–733,weblink
  • JOURNAL, "C" (Charles Babbage), Mr. Thwaites's cypher, Journal of the Society of Arts, 6 October 1854, 2, 98, 776–777,weblink
  • Charles Babbage, Passages from the Life of a Philosopher (London, England: Longman, 1864), page 496. In 1855, Babbage also published a short letter, "Cypher Writing", in the same journal.JOURNAL, 41334443, Journal of the Society for Arts, Vol. 4, no. 159, The Journal of the Society of Arts, 4, 159, 29–44, Hooper, George N., Babbage, Charles, Clarke, Hyde, Webster, Thomas, Bentham, M. S., Good, S. A., 1855, Nevertheless, his priority was not established until 1985.JOURNAL, 41374062, General Notes, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, 133, 5352, 880–883, Franksen, OLE Immanuel, Rushton, RAY, November 1985, See also: Ole Immanuel Franksen, Mr. Babbage's Secret. The Tale of a Cypher — and APL (Birkerød, Denmark: Strandbergs Forlag, 1984 ; reprinted by: Prentice-Hall, Englewood, New Jersey, USA, 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".JOURNAL, Table of the Relative Frequency of Occurrence of the Causes of Breaking of Plate Glass Windows, Babbage, Charles, Mechanics Magazine, 1857, 66, 82, BOOK, Babbage, Charles, The Works of Charles Babbage, V, 1989, William Pickering, London, 137, Martin Campbell-Kelly, 978-1-85196-005-7, BOOK,weblink The Insurance cyclopaedia, 22 February 2011, 1878, Walford, Cornelius, 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 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.BOOK, Karen Chase, Michael Levenson, The Spectacle of Intimacy: A Public Life for the Victorian Family,weblink 22 April 2013, 15 August 2009, Princeton University Press, 978-1-4008-3112-8, 151, 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.{{harvnb|Babbage|1864|p=360}} 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."Hansard's parliamentary debates. THIRD SERIES COMMENCING WITH THE ACCESSION OF WILLIAM IV. 27° & 28° VICTORIA, 1864. VOL. CLXXVI. COMPRISING THE PERIOD FROM THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF JUNE 1864, TO THE TWENTY-NINTH DAY OF JULY 1864. Parliament, Thomas Curson Hansard "Street Music (Metropolis) Bill "; V4, p471 weblink

Computing pioneer

(File:BabbageDifferenceEngine.jpg|thumb|Part of Charles Babbage's difference engine (#1), assembled after his death by his son, Henry Prevost Babbage (1824–1918), using parts found in Charles' laboratory)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 Airy, the Astronomer Royal.BOOK, Swade, Doron, Doron Swade, The Cogwheel Brain, Little, Brown and Company, London, 978-0316648479, 2000, 186, 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.BOOK, Gleick, J., The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood, Fourth Estate, London, 2011, 104, The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood, 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: {{blockquote|In 1812 he was sitting in his rooms in the Analytical Society looking at a table of logarithms, which he knew to be full of mistakes, when the idea occurred to him of computing all tabular functions by machinery. The French government had produced several tables by a new method. Three or four of their mathematicians decided how to compute the tables, half a dozen more broke down the operations into simple stages, and the work itself, which was restricted to addition and subtraction, was done by eighty computers who knew only these two arithmetical processes. Here, for the first time, mass production was applied to arithmetic, and Babbage was seized by the idea that the labours of the unskilled computers [people] could be taken over completely by machinery which would be quicker and more reliable.B. V. Bowden, Faster than Thought, Pitman (1953), p. 8.}}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.BOOK, Martin Campbell-Kelly, The History of Mathematical Tables: From Sumer to Spreadsheets,weblink 19 April 2013, 2 October 2003, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-850841-0, 110, BOOK, Charles Coulston Gillispie, Science and Polity in France: The End of the Old Regime,weblink 19 April 2013, 10 January 2009, Princeton University Press, 978-1-4008-2461-8, 485,

Difference engine

File:Babbage Difference Engine.jpg|thumb|left|The Science Museum's Difference Engine No. 2, built from Babbage's design]]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.WEB,weblink Difference Engine {{!, calculating machine|website=Encyclopedia Britannica|language=en|access-date=2019-05-13}}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.ODNB, 37291, Clement, Joseph, Anita, McConnell, Some parts of the prototype survive in the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford.JOURNAL, Denis, Roegel, Prototype Fragments from Babbage's First Difference Engine, IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, 31, 70–5, April–June 2009, 2, 10.1109/MAHC.2009.31, {{inconsistent citations, }} 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 fifteen tons (13,600 kg), and would have been {{Convert|8|ft|m|1|abbr=on}} 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.NEWS,weblink SCI/TECH | Babbage printer finally runs, BBC News, 13 April 2000, 27 April 2012,

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 MuseumWEB,weblink Overview â€“ The Babbage Engine, Computer History Museum, 29 January 2009, in Mountain View, California on 10 May 2008.NEWS, Shiels, Maggie, Victorian 'supercomputer' is reborn,weblink 11 May 2008, BBC News, 10 May 2008, The two models that have been constructed are not replicas; Myhrvold's engine is the first design by Babbage, and the Science Museum's is a later model.{{Citation needed|date=December 2017}}

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.BOOK, Bruce Collier, James MacLachlan, Charles Babbage: And the Engines of Perfection,weblink 20 April 2013, 28 September 2000, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-514287-7, 65, 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.WEB, The Baggage Engine,weblink Computer History Museum, 6 March 2013, The major innovation was that the Analytical Engine was to be programmed using punched cards: 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.BOOK, Ceruzzi, Paul, Computing: A Concise History, 2012, Smithsonian Institution, United States, 9780262517676, 7–8, JOURNAL, Gross, Benjamin, The French connection, Distillations Magazine, Fall 2015, 1, 3, 10–13,weblink 22 March 2018, 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.{{Citation needed|date=December 2017}}File:Opening George III museum.jpg|thumb|Part of the Analytical Engine on display, in 1843, left of centre in this engraving of the King George III Museum in King's College, LondonKing's College, London

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. {{ISBN|978-1-97000-151-8}} Despite documentary evidence in Lovelace's own handwriting, some scholars dispute to what extent the ideas were Lovelace's own.BOOK, Bromley, Allan G., Allan G. Bromley, Difference and Analytical Engines, Computing Before Computers, William, Aspray, Iowa State University Press, Ames, 59–98,weblink pdf, 1990, 0-8138-0047-1, p. 89.JOURNAL, Stein, Dorothy K., 1984, Lady Lovelace's Notes: Technical Text and Cultural Context, Victorian Studies, 33–67, 28, 1, p. 34.THESIS, Collier, Bruce, The Little Engines That Could've: The Calculating Machines of Charles Babbage, PhD, Harvard University, 1970,weblink 18 December 2015, Chapter 3. For this achievement, she is often described as the first computer programmer;JOURNAL, Fuegi J, Francis J, Lovelace & Babbage and the creation of the 1843 'notes', Annals of the History of Computing, 25, 4, 16–26, October–December 2003, 10.1109/MAHC.2003.1253887, See pages 19, 25{{Failed verification|date=March 2019|reason="computer programmer" or similar not found in article}} though no programming language had yet been invented.NEWS,weblink Charles Babbage {{!, Biography & Facts|work=Encyclopedia Britannica|access-date=2017-12-21|language=en}}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 weaves flowers and leaves."Babbage visited Turin in 1840 at the invitation of Giovanni Plana. 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.BOOK, Benjamin Woolley, The Bride of Science, 1999, Macmillan, 978-0-333-72436-1, 258–60, 338,

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.BOOK, Michael Lingren, Glory and Failure: The Difference Engines of Johann Müller, Charles Babbage and Georg and Edvard Scheutz,weblink 27 April 2013, 1990, MIT Press, 978-0-262-12146-0, 98–112, Another Swedish engine was that of Martin Wiberg (1860).BOOK, I. Grattan-Guinness, Companion encyclopedia of the history and philosophy of the mathematical sciences,weblink 27 April 2013, 1 September 2003, JHU Press, 978-0-8018-7396-6, 698,


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.NEWS,weblink It Started Digital Wheels Turning, New York Times, 10 November 2011, 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.NEWS
, Babbage Analytical Engine designs to be digitised
, BBC News
, 21 September 2011
, 19 March 2012,
Advances in 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.WEB,weblinkweblink" title="">weblink yes, 13 October 2007, Electronics Times: Micro-machines are fit for space,, 11 October 1999, 29 January 2009, 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".NEWS, Babbage's Last Laugh, The Economist, 9 September 1999,weblink Due to his association with the town Babbage was chosen in 2007 to appear on the 5 Totnes pound note.WEB,weblink Latest Devon News -, Devon Live, 5 December 2015,weblink" title="">weblink 10 August 2014, yes, dmy-all, An image of Babbage features in the British cultural icons section of the newly designed British passport in 2015.NEWS, Introducing the new UK passport design,weblink, 7 November 2016,


File:Charles Babbage grave Kensal Green 2014.jpg|thumb|alt=A granite, horizontal, geometrically elaborate gravestone surrounded by other headstones|upright=1.3|Babbage's grave at Kensal Green CemeteryKensal Green CemeteryOn 25 July 1814, Babbage married Georgiana Whitmore at St. Michael's Church in Teignmouth, Devon; her sister Louisa married Edward Ryan. The couple lived at Dudmaston Hall,WEB,weblink Attraction information for Dudmaston Hall, VisitBritain, 29 January 2009, 2015-10-08, Shropshire (where Babbage engineered the central heating system), before moving to 5 Devonshire Street, London in 1815.BOOK, Dubbey, John Michael, The Mathematical Work of Charles Babbage, 12 Feb 2004, Cambridge University Press, 9780521524766, 6, Charles and Georgiana had eight children,WEB,weblink Babbage Family Tree 2005, Valerie Bavidge-Richardson, 9 February 2013,weblink" title="">weblink 13 October 2007, yes, Also see WEB,weblink Charles Babbage entry, ClanBarker, 9 February 2013, 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-??)
  • 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,WEB,weblink Henry Prevost Babbage â€“ The Babbage Engine, Computer History Museum, 29 January 2009, 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.WEB,weblink Henry Babbage's Analytical Engine Mill, 1910, Science Museum, 16 January 2007, 29 January 2009,


File:Babbages Brain.jpg|thumb|upright|Charles Babbage's brain is 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."JOURNAL, Victor Horsley, Horsley, Victor, Description of the Brain of Mr. Charles Babbage, F.R.S, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 1909, 200, 117–32,weblink 10.1098/rstb.1909.0003, 7 December 2007, 262–273, Subscription required. He had declined both a knighthood and baronetcy. He also argued against hereditary peerages, favouring life peerages instead.BOOK,weblink Remarkable Engineers: From Riquet to Shannon, Ioan James, 2010, Cambridge University Press, 50, 9781139486255,

Autopsy report

In 1983 the autopsy report for Charles Babbage was discovered and later published by his great-great-grandson.JOURNAL, Babbage, Neville, Autopsy Report on the Body of Charles Babbage ( "the father of the computer "), Medical Journal of Australia, June 1991, 154, 11, 758–9, 2046574, JOURNAL, Williams, Michael R., The "Last Word " on Charles Babbage, 10.1109/85.728225, IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, 1998, 20, 10–4, 4, {{subscription required}} A copy of the original is also available.WEB,weblink Postmortem report by John Gregory Smith, F.R.C.S. (anatomist), Science and, 29 January 2009, Half of Babbage's brain is preserved at the Hunterian Museum in the Royal College of Surgeons in London.WEB,weblink Babbage's brain,, 29 January 2009, The other half of Babbage's brain is on display in the Science Museum, London.WEB,weblink Visit the museum, Galleries, Computing, Overview, Science Museum, 25 October 2010, yes,weblink" title="">weblink 20 September 2010,


(File:Charles Babbage (5108336102).jpg|Green plaque in London|thumb)There is a black plaque commemorating the 40 years Babbage spent at 1 Dorset Street, London.{{openplaque|3061}} Locations, institutions and other things named after Babbage include:

In fiction and film

Babbage frequently appears in steampunk works; he has been called an iconic figure of the genre.BOOK, Justin Edwards, Agnieszka Soltysik Monnet, The Gothic in Contemporary Literature and Popular Culture: Pop Goth,weblink 18 April 2013, 2012, Routledge, 978-0-415-80676-3, 157–, Other works in which Babbage appears include:
  • As a Great Thinker, in the 2008 strategy video game Civilization Revolution.WEB,weblink Civilization Revolution: Great People: "CivFanatics" Retrieved on 3 September 2009,, 20 July 2008, 22 February 2011, yes,weblink" title="">weblink 17 March 2011,
  • The 2008 short film Babbage.
  • Sydney Padua created The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, a cartoon alternate history in which Babbage and Lovelace succeed in building the analytic engine. It quotes heavily from the writings of Lovelace, Babbage and their contemporaries.NEWS, Redniss, Lauren, 'The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage,' by Sydney Padua,weblink 2 December 2015, The New York Times, June 5, 2015, BOOK, Padua, Sydney, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, 2015, Pantheon Graphic Novels, 978-0307908278,
  • 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. Accessed 3 December 2014.
  • The BBC series Victoria in Season 2, Episode 2 'The Green-Eyed Monster', portrayed by Jo Stone-Fewings.IMDB 'Victoria (2016– )The Green-Eyed Monster'
  • In the video game Fate/Grand Order, Babbage can be summoned as a Caster class Servant.


  • BOOK, Babbage, Charles, A Comparative View of the Various Institutions for the Assurance of Lives, J. Mawman, 1826, London,weblink
  • BOOK, Babbage, Charles, Reflections on the Decline of Science in England, and on Some of Its Causes, B. Fellowes, 1830, London,weblink
  • BOOK, Babbage, Charles, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, Charles Knight, 1835, 4th, London,weblink
  • BOOK, Babbage, Charles, The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, a Fragment, John Murray, 1837, London,weblink (Reissued by Cambridge University Press 2009, {{ISBN|978-1-108-00000-0}}.)
  • BOOK, Babbage, Charles, Table of the Logarithms of the Natural Numbers from 1 to 108000, William Clowes and Sons, 1841, London,weblink (The LOCOMAT site contains a reconstruction of this table.)
  • BOOK, Babbage, Charles, The Exposition of 1851, John Murray, 1851, London,weblink
  • BOOK, Babbage, Charles, Passages from the Life of a Philosopher, Longman, 1864, London, harv, s:Passages from the Life of a Philosopher,
  • BOOK, Charles, Babbage, Anthony, Hyman, Science and Reform: Selected Works of Charles Babbage,weblink 1989, Cambridge University Press, 978-0-521-34311-4,

See also




  • JOURNAL, Alex D. D., Craik, Prehistory of Faà di Bruno's Formula, The American Mathematical Monthly, 112, 2, Feb 2005, 119–130, 10.2307/30037410, 30037410, .

External links

{{Lucasian Professors of Mathematics}}{{Timelines of computing}}{{Authority control}}

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