dict.org

The DICT Development Group


Search for:
Search type:
Database:

Database copyright information
Server information


1 definition found
 for Charles Babbage
From The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing (30 December 2018) :

  Charles Babbage
  Babbage, Charles
  
      The British inventor known to some as the "Father of
     Computing" for his contributions to the basic design of the
     computer through his Analytical Engine.  His previous
     Difference Engine was a special purpose device intended for
     the production of mathematical tables.
  
     Babbage was born on December 26, 1791 in Teignmouth,
     Devonshire UK.  He entered Trinity College, Cambridge in 1814
     and graduated from Peterhouse.  In 1817 he received an MA from
     Cambridge and in 1823 started work on the Difference Engine
     through funding from the British Government.  In 1827 he
     published a table of logarithms from 1 to 108000.  In 1828
     he was appointed to the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at
     Cambridge (though he never presented a lecture).  In 1831 he
     founded the British Association for the Advancement of Science
     and in 1832 he published "Economy of Manufactures and
     Machinery".  In 1833 he began work on the Analytical
     Engine. In 1834 he founded the Statistical Society of London.
     He died in 1871 in London.
  
     Babbage also invented the cowcatcher, the dynamometer,
     standard railroad gauge, uniform postal rates, occulting
     lights for lighthouses, Greenwich time signals, and the
     heliograph opthalmoscope.  He also had an interest in cyphers
     and lock-picking.
  
     [Adapted from the text by J. A. N. Lee, Copyright September
     1994].
  
     Babbage, as (necessarily) the first person to work with
     machines that can attack problems at arbitrary levels of
     abstraction, fell into a trap familiar to toolsmiths
     since, as described here by the English ethicist, Lord
     Moulton:
  
     "One of the sad memories of my life is a visit to the
     celebrated mathematician and inventor, Mr Babbage.  He was far
     advanced in age, but his mind was still as vigorous as ever.
     He took me through his work-rooms.  In the first room I saw
     parts of the original Calculating Machine, which had been
     shown in an incomplete state many years before and had even
     been put to some use.  I asked him about its present form.  'I
     have not finished it because in working at it I came on the
     idea of my Analytical Machine, which would do all that it
     was capable of doing and much more.  Indeed, the idea was so
     much simpler that it would have taken more work to complete
     the Calculating Machine than to design and construct the other
     in its entirety, so I turned my attention to the Analytical
     Machine.'"
  
     "After a few minutes' talk, we went into the next work-room,
     where he showed and explained to me the working of the
     elements of the Analytical Machine.  I asked if I could see
     it.  'I have never completed it,' he said, 'because I hit upon
     an idea of doing the same thing by a different and far more
     effective method, and this rendered it useless to proceed on
     the old lines.'  Then we went into the third room.  There lay
     scattered bits of mechanism, but I saw no trace of any working
     machine.  Very cautiously I approached the subject, and
     received the dreaded answer, 'It is not constructed yet, but I
     am working on it, and it will take less time to construct it
     altogether than it would have token to complete the Analytical
     Machine from the stage in which I left it.'  I took leave of
     the old man with a heavy heart."
  
     "When he died a few years later, not only had he constructed
     no machine, but the verdict of a jury of kind and sympathetic
     scientific men who were deputed to pronounce upon what he had
     left behind him, either in papers or in mechanism, was that
     everything was too incomplete of be capable of being put to
     any useful purpose."
  
     [Lord Moulton, "The invention of algorithms, its genesis, and
     growth", in G. C. Knott, ed., "Napier tercentenary memorial
     volume" (London, 1915), p.  1-24; quoted in Charles Babbage
     "Passage from the Life of a Philosopher", Martin
     Campbell-Kelly, ed. (Rutgers U. Press and IEEE Press, 1994),
     p. 34].
  
     Compare: uninteresting, Ninety-Ninety Rule.
  
     (1996-02-22)
  

Contact=webmaster@dict.org Specification=RFC 2229