English mathematician and inventor Charles Babbage is credited with having conceived the first automatic digital computer. During the mid-1830s Babbage developed plans for the Analytical Engine.
Charles Babbage 26 December 1791 – 18 October 1871) was an English polymath. A mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer, Babbage originated the concept of a digital programmable computer.
Babbage is considered by some to be "father of the computer". Babbage is credited with inventing the first mechanical computer, 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 Analytical Engine. His varied work in other fields has led him to be described as "pre-eminent" among the many polymaths of his century
Babbage, who died before the complete successful engineering of many of his designs, including his Difference Engine and Analytical Engine, remained a prominent figure in the ideating of computing. Parts of Babbage's incomplete mechanisms are on display in the Science Museum 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.
|26 December 1791 London (likely Southwark)
|18 October 1871 (aged 79) Marylebone, London, UK
|Mathematics, engineering, political economy, computer science
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.A blue plaque on the junction of Larcom Street and Walworth Road commemorates the event. His date of birth was given in his obituary in The Times 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. 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. 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.
The British Association was consciously modelled on the Deutsche Naturforscher-Versammlung, founded in 1822. It rejected romantic science as well as metaphysics, and started to entrench the divisions of science from literature, and professionals from amateurs. Belonging as he did to the "Wattite" faction in the BAAS, represented in particular by James Watt the younger, Babbage identified closely with industrialists. He wanted to go faster in the same directions, and had little time for the more gentlemanly component of its membership. Indeed, he subscribed to a version of conjectural history that placed industrial society as the culmination of human development (and shared this view with Herschel). A clash with Roderick Murchison led in 1838 to his withdrawal from further involvement. At the end of the same year he sent in his resignation as Lucasian professor, walking away also from the Cambridge struggle with Whewell. His interests became more focussed, on computation and metrology, and on international contacts.
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.