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Detail of Biography - Charles Babbage
Name :
Charles Babbage
Date :
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562
Category :
Birth Date :
26/12/1791
Birth Place :
London, England.
Death Date :
October 18, 1871
Biography - Charles Babbage
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As civilization marches ahead, man is getting seeped in ever increasing mass of information, which at times causes confusion and stress. Along with development, man craved for perfection, comfort and sophistication in every walk of life. Since ages, attempts have been made to bring such elements to improve the overall quality of the human life. This aim was fulfilled to a great extent with the invention of the first computing machine in the 19th century. A wonderful invention indeed, by British mathematician Charles Benjamin Babbage![br /]
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Born in the early part of the 18th century, at the advent of industrial revolution in Europe, very little is known of Charles’ childhood and early youth except that he was born on December 26, 1791, in a big house on 44 Crosby Row, Walworth Road, Surrey, England. His father, Benjamin Babbage was a banker and a merchant. His mother was Betsy Plumleigh Babbage.[br /]
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Charles was born in a fairly wealthy family but in his early days, suffered ill health. At the ages five and ten, he suffered violent bouts of fever, which nearly cost him his life. He recovered from his fatal illness with difficulty. For the boy’s well being, his father Benjamin decided to send him to Devonshire under the care of a clergyman. Charles was sent to a school at Alphington, near Exeter. The clergyman was requested to take adequate care of Charles and ensure not to burden his mind with too much knowledge. The mission was fairly accomplished by the clergyman to the satisfaction of his father.[br /]
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Charles’ ancestors were from an old Totnes region. The West Country with its wealthy Totnes region with a port at Dartmouth and mines made important contributions in the first half of the industrial revolution in Britain then. It was a land of Newcomen and Savery, the pioneers of the steam engine. Charles felt deeply for his ancestor’s land and was attached to the Totnes region all his life. Charles’ destiny to grow in the middle of a great period of ferment and change raising all-round awareness of the environment around him. London was at the vortex of industrialization. With the population bursting at the seams as well as the rapid expansion in an industrial zone that was on an upsurge had left the city no better place to live in. The other darker side of industrialization was the migration of the people from the nearby provinces that brought immense poverty to the city. All this had little or no effect on Charles who was born with the golden spoon.[br /]
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As the son of a prominent banker, he was away from the miseries of life. Since his family could afford to have Charles educated at private school, he was sent to an academy at Forty Hill, Enfield, Middlesex. Here, his educational zeal was satisfied to a large extent. As a student, Charles was interested in mathematics and excellent at algebra and functions.[br /]
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His dislike for classics and passion for mathematics kept him involved in solving mathematical problems all the time. After leaving the academy, he continued to study at home. To make himself eligible for the university level education, an Oxford educated tutor was appointed. Charles studied many books on mathematics during this period. Amongst them, he read Humphrey Ditton’s Fluxions but could not impress him much. He acquired some knowledge from the book Analytical Instructions, written by Madame Agnesi. Charles was first introduced to the notation of Leibnitz from Woodhouse’s Principles of Analytic Calculation. He also learned some lessons of mathematics from Lagrange’s Theorie des Fonctions and from the Fluxions of Maclaurin and of Simson. Undoubtedly, when one meets one’s peers, new horizons are discovered.
In Charles’ case, he had already realized that it would be better if he concentrated on his favorite subject mathematics in which, he later excelled. In October 1810, young Charles entered the Trinity College at Cambridge. By then, he had studied mathematics in depth. However, this knowledge empowered him to such an extent that he felt dissatisfied with the teaching style of the lecturers at Cambridge then. He felt that his knowledge of mathematics was better than some of his professors. He has written, "Thus it happened that when I went to Cambridge, I could work out such questions as the very moderate amount of mathematics which I then possessed admitted, with equal facility, in the dots of Newton, the d’s of Leibnitz, or the dashes of Lagrange. I, thus acquired distaste for the routine studies of the place and devoured the papers of Euler and other mathematicians scattered through innumerable volumes of the academies of St. Petersburg, Berlin and Paris, which the libraries I had recourse to contained… Under these circumstances it was not surprising that I should perceive and be penetrated with the superior power of the notation of Leibnitz."
It was difficult for Charles to understand why Professor Woodhouse was teaching Newton’s calculus at Cambridge, without any reference to Leibnitz’s methods. Charles’ desire was to promote continental mathematics not only in Cambridge, but also in every part of Britain. In order to do so, he studied more on mathematics. He found an excellent book of Lacroix on the Differential and Integral Calculus. That was a period of war with Napoleon Bonaparte, at the height of his conquests. So, when Charles tried to purchase Lacroix’s book on the differential and integral calculus, he had to pay 7 guineas for it – a sizable amount in those days. He thoroughly grasped the book and then drew up the sketch of a society to be instituted for translating the small work of Lacroix. He spoke to one of his friends, Edward Bromhead, who encouraged him to set up a new society. With his friends, John Herschel, George Peacock and six others, Charles Babbage set up the Analytical Society in 1812. Nine undergraduate mathematicians attended the first meeting of the society. One year after the foundation of the society, Babbage and Herschel published Memoirs of the Analytical Society, a remarkably great work written by two undergraduates. In this book, they provided a history of calculus. About Newton and Leibnitz controversy, they wrote, "It is a lamentable consideration, that the discovery, which has most of any done honor to the genius of man, should nevertheless bring with it a train of reflections so little to the credit of his heart".[br /]
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Babbage’s desire to build a mechanical device calculating mathematical tables, peaked around 1812. The computation of logarithms had made him aware of the inaccuracy of human calculation. He had written, "…I was sitting in the rooms of the Analytical Society, at Cambridge, my head leaning forward on the table in a kind of dreamy mood, with a table of logarithms lying before me. Another member, coming into the room and seeing me half asleep called out, "Well, Babbage, what are you dreaming about ?" to which I replied, "I am thinking that all these tables (pointing to the logarithms) might be calculated by machinery" – and the originator of the concepts behind the present day computer had realized his dream when he made a baby calculator capable of performing certain mathematical computations up to eight decimals. In 1814, Babbage moved out from the Cambridge to Peterhouse, from where he graduated with B. A.[br /]
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The year 1914 was very important year for Babbage, from the social view point. He married Georgiana Whitmore, a lady from a landowning Shropshire family. Wolryche Whitmore, a half-brother of his wife, was an important character in Babbage’s life. He was a Member of Parliament and also a leading member of the Political Economy Club. After marriage, Babbage said good-bye to Cambridge and settled down in London. He wrote two major papers on functional equations in the span of two years.[br /]
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At this time, two further publications by the Analytical Society, the joint works of Babbage, Herschel and Peacock, were published. These works were English translations of Lacroix’s Sur le calcul differential et integral, published in 1816 and a book of examples on the calculus, published in 1820. He was elected fellow of the Royal Society of London, at 24, at the same time. Although elected to this prestigious society, Babbage was unhappy with the way that the learned societies of that time were functioning. He made a controversial comment on the Royal Society, "The Council of the Royal Society is a collection of men who elect each other to office and then dine together at the expense of this society to praise each other over wine and give each other medals." This led him to establish the Royal Astronomical Society in 1820. He served as the Secretary of the Royal Astronomical Society initially for four years and later, held the chair of the vice-president. He was also elected fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.[br /]
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He turned his interest towards astronomical instruments around 1819. His ideas became more precise and he designed the mathematical tables using the method of difference by mechanical means. The year proved to be the first big step for Babbage as his dream had started taking a perfect shape in the form of the Difference Engine. His mission was accomplished after four non-stop years of hard work and perseverance. On June 14, 1822, Babbage announced his invention in a research paper entitled Note on the Application of Machinery to the Computation of Astronomical and Mathematical Tables, before the Royal Astronomical Society. Now, Babbage became famous and was an acclaimed mathematician in his own right. His passion to find a new dimension in the field of mathematics, especially in mechanical calculations remained a top priority, for the rest of his life. [br /]
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Financially, Babbage was not so well off that he could plan this dream project at his own expense. To design the calculating machine with a 20 decimal capacity, he sought and finally obtained support from the British Government. The construction of the proposed machine required the development of mechanical engineering techniques. So, it was necessary to devote himself totally to the project. But, as time passed, the construction proceeded slower than expected. Moreover, by 1827, the project expenses were getting out of budget. Now, Babbage was steeped in deep financial crisis.[br /]
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The year 1827 was a tragic year for Babbage. In a short span of 12 months, his wife Georgiana, two of his children and his father, all passed away. Babbage could not bear these shocking events and his health deteriorated further. His doctor advised him to travel the continent to overcome the physical and mental stress. Babbage spent a year traveling to different places and returned to London in the fall of 1828. Never losing hope, he again started his research. His attempts to obtain additional financial support from the government eventually bore fruits when the Duke of Wellington, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other members of the government visited Babbage and inspected his workshop. Meanwhile, Babbage was offered a job at the University of Cambridge as Lucasian Chair of Mathematics from 1828 to 1839. He held the esteemed position that Sir Isaac Newton had held before him and is presently held by astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.[br /]
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However, he never gave a lecture there and instead was engrossed in the research work to develop his theory of Difference Engine. The British Government promised to pay £ 9000 for his ambitious project by February 1830.[br /]
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After this, Babbage created a controversy by publishing his book – Reflections on the Decline of Science in England. As a result, the British Association for the Advancement of Science was founded the following year. Encouraged by his success, Babbage published On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures – the most influential work. In this book, he explained the form of theory, which is known as Operational Research today.[br /]
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In mid 1830s, a fresh idea struck Babbage’s mind that is The Analytical Engine, the forerunner of the modern digital computer. In 1834, he stopped working on the Difference Engine. It was a period of the Industrial Revolution and things were moving at such a fast pace that one could not comprehend as to what would be the result of research, until one finished the works in toto. The British Government was not ready to sanction more financial support to Babbage until it saw the finished product of the first project – the Difference Engine. By 1834, the government had spent more than £ 17,000 on Babbage’s first project and Babbage himself had invested £ 6000. After further denial of funds, Babbage tried to convince the authorities that it would cost more money to complete the first project than to build the second one – the Analytical Engine. [br /]
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Clouds of uncertainty hovered for eight years – from 1834 to 1842 – before the British Government committed any financial support. By 1834, Babbage had already completed the first drawings of the Analytical Engine and finalized the theoretical work, but unfortunately, he could never accomplish his dream as the Robert Peel government withdrew support to Babbage. He was disheartened by the lackadaisical treatment of successive governments, which failed to understand the potential of his work and even ignored the advice of prominent scientists and engineers in support of Babbage. The procrastination of eight years left him hopeless and hapless. The authorities that be, had misunderstood his motives and the sacrifice he had made. A heart-broken Babbage began to finance the project on his own, but could not revive any hopes of success. Although Babbage could never construct his brainchild – an operational, mechanical computer – his designs proved to have striking similarity with the present day computers. A computer, following Babbage’s own design concepts, has been constructed recently for posterity’s sake, proving the genius of Babbage.[br /]
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His struggle to build an accurate computing machine, attracted Augusta Ada Lovelace, the Countess of Lovelace and daughter of famous poet Lord Byron. In 1851, she helped Babbage in the hope of winning the Derby. Ada was apparently in debt of more than £ 3,200 on the Derby day of May 21, 1851. In those days, it was a sizable amount. Babbage and Ada took a risk for Ada’s remaining inheritance on a bet based on their system for betting. Once again, he was ditched by lady luck and they lost the game. Babbage accepted his failure with the statement "… winning at the track is far more difficult than designing a computer." Ada later died of cancer, leaving most of her gambling debts unpaid. [br /]
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By 1851, with little hope of realizing his brainchild, Babbage gave up the research on Analytical Engine.[br /]
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When Babbage gave up his idea of constructing the Analytic Engine, he wrote in the vitriolic exposition of 1851 : Thus, bad names are coined by worse men to destroy honest people, as the madness of innocent dogs arises from the cry of insanity raised by their villainous pursuers.[br /]
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By the time Babbage left the world on October 18, 1871, he was an utterly disappointed old man. He died in isolation and very few people in London attended his funeral and most of them ridiculed the death of this great mathematician. He was not honored, until the dawn of the era of computers. An unfulfilled desire of the epoch-maker is still aching the hearts of computer-lovers with the words "… if I survive some few years longer, the analytical engine will exist…"[br /]
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British mathematician, designer and inventor of the world’s first mechanical computing machine, the forerunner of the modern electronic computer, is considered as one of the key figures of the golden era of British history. He was born during the industrial revolution and by the time he died, Britain set on course to become the most industrialized country in the world. The Mechanical Timon, as the world recognized him, played a crucial role in British leadership in scientific and technical fields of that period.[br /]
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‘A definite order of the universe’ was a fairly common philosophy of that time. Many scientists trying to search the Natural Laws of the Universe. Babbage firmly believed that once the world could be quantified, then it could be predicted and controlled. In such a pursuit, he drew the design of his Analytical Engine, which was capable of solving and performing upon any mathematical problem. Although, he could not complete his dream project, he was called Father of Computing. His pioneering invention, added a new dimension in mathematics providing revolutionary [b]Computer Vision[/b] to the world.[br /]
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[b]December 26, 1791[/b][br /]

Charles Babbage was born in London, England.[br /]
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[b]October 1810[/b][br /]

Charles studied Mathematics at the Trinity College, Cambridge.[br /]
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[b]1812[/b][br /]

Established the Royal Analytical Society.[br /]


[b]1814[/b][br /]

Charles graduated with a B. A. from Peterhouse College.[br /]

Married Georgiana Whitmore and settled in London.[br /]
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[b]1816[/b][br /]

Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.[br /]
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[b]1819[/b][br /]

Began to construct the Difference Engine.[br /]
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[b]1820[/b][br /]

Was enrolled as a member of the Royal Astronomical Society.[br /]
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[b]June 14, 1822[/b][br /]

Announced his invention through his research paper; Note on the application of machinery to the computation of astronomical and mathematical tables before the Royal Astronomical Society.
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[b]1823[/b][br /]

Babbage created the design of a calculating machine with capacity to calculate up to 20th decimal place.[br /]

Received a gold medal for developing the Difference Engine from the Royal Astronomical Society on July 13.[br /]
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[b]1827[/b][br /]

Tragic deaths of his wife, father and two children.[br /]
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[b]1828[/b][br /]

Babbage became Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge.[br /]
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[b]1834[/b][br /]

Completed the designs of the Analytical Engine, the forerunner of the modern electronic computer.[br /]
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[b]1851[/b][br /]

Due to financial crisis, he had to give up his dream project of constructing Analytical Engine.[br /]
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[b]October 18, 1871[/b][br /]

Died a recluse, in London, England.[br /]
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Charles Babbage’s greatest achievement was his near perfect design for calculating machines – the table making Difference Engine and the far more ambitious Analytical Engine. The machines were flexible and powerful, punch card controlled general-purpose calculators, which incorporated many features reappeared in the modern stored computer program. These features included : punched card control, a set of internal registers, separate store mill, fast multiplier and divider, a range of peripherals and array for processing. The Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine were based on the rule of finite differences for solving complex equations by using repeated addition and not subtracting, multiplying or dividing.[br /]
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[b]THE DIFFERENCE ENGINE
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Charles Babbage was always concerned about the inaccuracies in human calculation method. Around 1812, an idea struck him while sitting in the room of the Analytical Society. He thought that the logarithms could be calculated with the help of machinery. Till 1819, he did not pursue this idea in a practical manner. What he needed was financial support and he convinced the British Government to fund his project to build a calculating machine. Babbage was strongly influenced by de Prony’s major efforts for the French Government to produce logarithmic and trigonometric tables with teams of people to carry out the calculations. He followed the working style of de Prony, and took upon himself a challenge to invent a new mechanical calculating device.[br /]
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He had to undergo hard labor and fatigue, involving endless calculation required for scientific mathematical tables. After four years, he came up with a working model of his Difference Engine. He was confident that the machine would dispense with the cumbersome manual calculation. During the research, he took note of the results with the help of an assistant. He demonstrated a prototype engine before the Royal Astronomical Society on June 14, 1822. He explained how the Difference Engine was capable of calculating successive terms of the sequence n2 + n + 41. He reported in his research paper, "The terms of this sequence are 41,43, 47, 53, 61... while the differences of the terms are 2,4, 6, 8…. The difference engine when given the initial data as 2, 0, 41; it constructs the next row 2, (0 + 2), (41 + (0 + 2)), that is 2, 2, 43; then the row 2, (2 + 2), (43 (2 + 2)), that is 2, 4, 47; then 2, 6, 53; then 2, 8, 61..." – thus, he narrated how the engine was capable of producing the members of the sequence n2 + n + 41, at the rate of about 60 every five minutes[br /]
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Babbage’s hard work was rewarded with a Gold Medal, which he received from the Astronomical Society on July 13, 1823. Now brimming with enthusiasm, Babbage met the Chancellor of the Exchequer to seek financial support for the construction of a large workable Difference Engine. The Royal Society of London also supported Babbage by attesting positive report to the government : Mr. Babbage has displayed great talent and ingenuity in the construction of this machine for computation, which the committee thankfully thinks adequate to the attainment of the objects proposed by the inventor; and they consider Mr. Babbage as highly deserving of public encouragement, in the prosecution of his arduous undertaking.[br /]
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This opinion convinced the government and it awarded Babbage £ 1,500 in funding. Babbage confidently began work on a large difference engine and predicted his mechanical marvel would be completed within three years. He set out to work with "…six orders of differences, each of 20 places of figures, whilst the first three columns would each have had half a dozen additional figures."[br /]
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Unfortunately, a working model of the engine proved more difficult to construct than the prototype. The project moved at snail’s pace against expectations and Babbage ended up spending 10 years in modifying, improvising and re-designing the device. By 1834, the expenses were getting out of hand and the government by then had already spent £ 17,000. Babbage had invested £ 6,000 from his pocket. Midway through the project, the abrupt decision of the government to stop further support to the project, ensured that the project never saw the light of the day, shattering the dream of Charles Babbage.[br /]
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[b]THE ANALYTICAL ENGINE
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During mid-1830s, Babbage embarked on an even more ambitious project – The Analytical Engine. His project on the difference engine had led him to a more-sophisticated idea. By 1834, Babbage designed a device capable of performing any arithmetical calculation based on punched cards, a memory unit in which to store numbers and a sequential control. In this device, he envisioned an input device, the store [a memory unit], the mill [a central processing unit] and an output device – the basic elements of the present-day computer. He used a card reader for his input device, which was inspired by Jacquard’s punched cards for looms used in manufacturing textiles. He also visualized a printer for his output device. [br /]
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Besides this, he also facilitated his machine with the provision for earlier results to be modified later on (memory storage). Although, the analytical engine was conceptualized, Babbage’s dream project never fructified. His designs of the analytical engine were forgotten until his unpublished notes were discovered in 1937. According to these designs, Babbage had described five logical components of the computing machine – the store, the mill, the control, the input and the output. The store [memory] contains "… all the variables to be operated upon, as well as all those quantities, which had arisen from the results of other operations. The mill [Central Processing Unit] is the place ...into which the quantities about to be operated upon are always bought." And about the punched cards, he explained, "Every set of cards made for any formula will at any future time recalculate the formula with whatever constants that may be required.[br /]
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" Babbage’s comment about the analytical engine was, "Thus, the Analytical Engine will possess a library of its own. Every set of cards once made will at any time reproduce the calculations for which it was first arranged."[br /]
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Babbage’s analytical engine was designed to store infinite data effectively, by outputting data to punched cards. This data could be read again at a later stage whenever needed. From the previous bitter experiences, Babbage decided not to seek government support and went to Turin in 1840. There he met many eminent mathematicians including Menabrea. Menabrea published an article about Babbage’s analytical engine in October 1842. The article was translated into English with considerably more informative additions by Augusta Ada (Lady Ada Lovelace). She published the enriched article in 1843. [br /]
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Despite Babbage’s as well as his well wisher’s attempts the design of the analytical engine remained confined to the pages of computer history. Babbage could never build an operational, mechanical computer. It has now been proved that his design concepts were correct and following his design conceptualization, one such computer has been built recently. When Babbage had to give up his dream project mid-way in 1851, he wrote painfully, "The drawings of the Analytical Engine have been made entirely at my own cost : I instituted a long series of experiments for the purpose of reducing the expense of its construction to limits which might be within the means I could myself afford to supply. I am now resigned to the necessity of abstaining from its construction…"[br /]
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A committee appointed by the British Association underestimated Babbage’s invention, but after his death it acknowledged the sincere efforts, alas! but posthumously it reported : "…to report upon the feasibility of the design, recorded their opinion that its successful realization might mark an epoch in the history of computation equally memorable with that of the introduction of logarithms…"[br /]
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However, it is proved that the construction of modern computers is conceptually bears striking similarity to Babbage’s design. The Analytical Engine itself never saw the light of day, but the drawings and plans of Babbage’s engines still exist at the National Museum of Science and Technology in London. In 1991, the Museum had specially built a computer using Babbage’s designs and parts available to him during his time. The computing machine weighs hundreds of pounds, and is operated with a hand crank. As of date, it has never miscalculated any calculations.[br /]
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[b]OTHER MAJOR INVENTIONS
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The Cow–Catcher for steam locomotives to prevent cows getting run over by trains.
The first Speedometer.
The first Calculative Mortality Tables, now a basic tool used by the insurance industry.
The Uniform Postal Rates, demonstrating the calculation of the value of stamps by the distance it traveled which actually cost more in time, labor and money.
Heliograph Opthalmoscope, a device for studying the retina of the eye [Due to Helmholtz’s invention four years later of the Opthalmoscope, Babbage was never credited].
Greenwich Time Signals, a signaling system used by lighthouses.[br /]
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[b]A MEMORABLE DAY
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Babbage’s remarkable contribution has been honored and acknowledged by the Institute of Mathematics and Informatics of the Latvian University, the Administration of the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics and the Department of Computer Science by announcing The Prize of Charles Babbage in Computer Science. The objective behind the bestowing of the prize is to stimulate the student’s interest and involvement in the field of Computer Science. This prize is annually awarded on December 26, coinciding with the birth of the great visionary of the world’s first programmable computing machine – [b]Charles Babbage.[/b][br /]
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• I wish to God these calculations had been executed by steam.[br /]
• Some of my critics have amused their readers with the wildness of the schemes I have occasionally thrown out; and I myself have sometimes smiled along with them. Perhaps it were wiser for present reputation to offer nothing but profoundly meditated plans, but I do not think knowledge will be most advanced by the course; such sparks may kindle the energies of other minds more favorably circumstanced for pursuing the inquiries.[br /]
• Every minute dies a man[br /]

Every minute one is born.[br /]

The couplet was sent by Babbage to Alfred, Lord Tennyson in a letter.[br /]
• Winning at the track is far more difficult than designing a computer.[br /]
• If unwarned by my example, any man shall undertake and shall succeed in really constructing an engine… upon difference principles or by simpler means, I have no fear of leaving my reputation in his charge, for he alone will be fully able to appreciate the nature of my efforts and the value of their results.[br /]
• Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all.[br /]
• On two occasions I have been asked [by the members of Parliament], “Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out ?” I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question. The whole of the developments and operations of analysis are now capable of being executed by machinery…. As soon as an Analytical Engine exists, it will necessarily guide the future course of science.[br /]
• Miracles are not the breach of established laws, but … indicate the existence of far higher laws.[br /]
• If I survive some few years longer, the Analytical Engine will exist.[br /]
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