Babbage, Charles


Babbage, Charles
born Dec. 26, 1791, London, Eng.
died Oct. 18, 1871, London

British mathematician and inventor.

Educated at Cambridge University, he devoted himself from about 1812 to devising machines capable of calculating mathematical tables. His first small calculator could perform certain computations to eight decimals. In 1823 he obtained government support for the design of a projected machine with a 20-decimal capacity. In the 1830s he developed plans for the so-called Analytical Engine, capable of performing any arithmetical operation on the basis of instructions from punched cards, a memory unit in which to store numbers, sequential control, and most of the other basic elements of the present-day computer. The forerunner of the modern digital computer, the Analytical Engine was never completed. In 1991 British scientists built Difference Engine No. 2 (accurate to 31 digits) to Babbage's specifications. His other contributions included establishing the modern postal system in England, compiling the first reliable actuarial tables, and inventing the locomotive cowcatcher.

Charles Babbage, detail of an oil painting by Samuel Lawrence, 1845; in the National Portrait ...

Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London

* * *

▪ British inventor and mathematician
born December 26, 1791, London, England
died October 18, 1871, London
 English mathematician and inventor who is credited with having conceived the first automatic digital (digital computer) computer.

      In 1812 Babbage helped found the Analytical Society, whose object was to introduce developments from the European continent into English mathematics. In 1816 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London. He was instrumental in founding the Royal Astronomical (1820) and Statistical (1834) societies.

      The idea of mechanically calculating mathematical tables first came to Babbage in 1812 or 1813. Later he made a small calculator that could perform certain mathematical computations to eight decimals. Then in 1823 he obtained government support for the design of a projected machine with a 20-decimal capacity. Its construction required the development of mechanical engineering techniques, to which Babbage of necessity devoted himself. In the meantime (1828–39) he served as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge.

      During the mid-1830s Babbage developed plans for the Analytical Engine, the forerunner of the modern digital computer. In this device he envisioned the capability of performing any arithmetical operation on the basis of instructions from punched cards, a memory unit in which to store numbers, sequential control, and most of the other basic elements of the present-day computer. The Analytical Engine, however, was never completed. Babbage's design was forgotten until his unpublished notebooks were discovered in 1937. In 1991 British scientists built Difference Engine No. 2—accurate to 31 digits—to Babbage's specifications.

      Babbage made notable contributions in other areas as well. He assisted in establishing the modern postal system in England and compiled the first reliable actuarial tables. He also invented a type of speedometer and the locomotive cowcatcher.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Babbage , Charles — (1792–1871) British mathematician Babbage, whose father was a banker, was born in Teignmouth and studied at Cambridge. He played a major role in ending the isolationist attitudes prevalent in British mathematical circles in the early 19th century …   Scientists

  • Babbage, Charles — ► (1792 1871) Matemático británico, inventor de unas máquinas de calcular que se consideran precursoras de la cibernética. * * * (26 dic. 1791, Londres, Inglaterra–18 oct. 1871, Londres). Matemático e inventor británico. Educado en la Universidad …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Babbage, Charles — ● /ba baiy dj/ np. ►PERS (1791 1871). Mathématicien ayant tenté de mettre au point une machine de calcul mécanique dans les années 1850. Sa Machine Analytique (aussi appelée Machine de Babbage) n a jamais fonctionné de son vivant (elle était… …   Dictionnaire d'informatique francophone

  • Babbage,Charles — Bab·bage (băbʹĭj), Charles. 1792 1871. British mathematician and inventor of an analytical machine based on principles similar to those used in modern computers. * * * …   Universalium

  • BABBAGE, CHARLES —    a mathematician, born in Devonshire; studied at Cambridge, and professor there; spent much time and money over the invention of a calculating machine; wrote on The Economy of Manufactures and Machinery, and an autobiography entitled Passages… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Babbage — Charles …   Scientists

  • Charles Babbage — in 1860 Born 26 December 1791( …   Wikipedia

  • Charles Babbage — Charles Babbages Unterschrift …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Charles Babbage — Matemático inglés y científico protoinformático Nacimiento 26 de diciembre de 1791 Teignm …   Wikipedia Español

  • Babbage — Charles Babbage Charles Babbage Charles Babbage (né le 26 décembre 1791 à Teignmouths, Devonshire, Angleterre, mort le 18 octobre 1871) était un mathématicien britannique et l un des précur …   Wikipédia en Français


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.