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Born: London, England 12/26/1791Mathematician Philosopher Inventor Mechanical EngineerCharles,one of four children was born in Devonshire, England to wealthy parents Benjamin and Betsy Babbage. As a boy, Charles suffered a life-threatening fever and extended period of recovery that prevented him from attending school away from home. Of the illness in his youth and special consideration in education, Charles claimed "that some of his rather ingenuous reasoning was a result of this relaxation" (Famous Mathematicians). Upon receiving a new toy his first instinct was to take it apart to see how it worked. Eventually Charles recovered and was well enough to attend Holmwood academy in Middlesex. It was in the academy's extensive library stocked with books on mathematics and probability that Charles fostered his fondness and propensity for mathematics. He taught himself algebra "because he was fascinated by the subject" (Stanford) and secretly studied calculus at school by himself between three and five A.M.At the age of 16, Charles attended the Totnes school and received tutoring that would prepare him for entrance into Cambridge.

The First ComputerCharles was perplexed about consistent errors in mathematical tables calculated by humans. It was in his early years of college, sitting before a table of logarithms he knew to be full of errors that he decided to create a machine that could compute without error. He designed three different machines, yet none of them was ever built to completion during his lifetime. Difference Machine (Model #1): Designed to computer the values of polynomial functions for use in mathematical and engineering applications. Construction began in 1822, was funded by the government for a total of 17,500 pounds, had 25,000 parts and would weigh 15 tons. It was nearly completed; however, construction ceased when Charles and his engineer had a falling out about compensation and business expenses. The Analytical Engine (Model #2):In 1834, Charles designed a new machine capable of more computing more functions than his first design, described as "a general-purpose programmable computing machine; a quantum leap in logical conception and physical size, and its design ranks as one of the startling intellectual achievements of the century"(Swade,2008). The Analytical Engine had an input device in the form of punch cards. "The engine consisted of two parts: the mill and the store. The mill, analogous to a modern computer's CPU, executed the operations on values retrieved from the store, which we would consider memory" (, and an output device in the form a printer. All components of a modern computer that would appear one century later. It is this design that Charles is given the title, "Father of the Computer."Difference Engine 2 (Model #3):Designed in 1847, this model incorporated and improved upon the functions of his second design. It would have only 8,000 parts, weigh five tons, and standing at eleven feet long and seven feet high, would have "greater computing power" (Swade, 2008). Charles never began construction on this design. In 1985, the Science Museum of London decided to build Charles' third model, Difference Engine 2, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of his birth. Six years later in 1991, construction finally finished. The machine was built with exact precision to Charles' plans using only methods available in the mid-19th-century. The machine worked and computed without error. Twelve years later, 2002, the printer was finished marking completion of Charles' design for the first time.

Charles was well respected in the field of mathematics. He held the position of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge from 1828-1839, a position once held by Sir Isaac Newton, and held today by prominent physicist Steven Hawking. Charles' accomplishments are many. He helped revolutionize the division of labor in factories by what is referred to in today's business world as the Babbage Principle. He determined that money and time were being lost due to higher paid high-skilled workers doing tasks below their skill level.For the steam train, he invented the pilot (cow-catcher) that would clear the tracks of any debris (or cows) that might be in the way of the train. He also designed fail safe quick release couplings for railroad cars. He proposed the idea of having "black box" recorders to monitor conditions in the event of railroad accidents. He was a gifted cryptologist easily able to "break Vignere's autokey cipher, infamously referred to as 'the undecipherable cipher.' This code-breaking was of incredible assistance to the English military campaigns although the attribution of the code-breaking was given to a Prussian infantry officer mistakenly" ( EGS).


In 1824 Babbage won the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society "for his invention of an engine for calculating mathematical and astronomical tables."

Charles BabbageThe Father of the Computer

Bonus Material!!Charles threw elaborate parties at his home; they were famous soirees attended by nobility, aristocrats, and anyone important. At one of these events he met Augusta Ada Byron, or Ada Lovelace, the educated daughter of Lord Byron. Ada's mother was amathematician (Lord Byron called her the "Princess of Parallelograms") and insisted that Ada receive an education in mathematics as well, most unusual for a female during that time. Ada proved quite gifted in the subject. Charles showed her a piece of the Difference Machine; her reaction was unlike anybody else. She had an innate sense of mathematics that allowed her to perceive that the machine could do more than calculations and said that it "'might act upon other things besides number... the Engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent."' Ada was sure the machine could manipulate symbols and numbers could represent something more than quantity was even more than Charles envisioned for his machine. Essentially, she was thinking of a 'program' for Charles' 'computer.' An article about her on Computer states, " She has been referred to as 'prophet of the computer age'. Certainly she was the first to express the potential for computers outside mathematics. "

Works Cited/Resources Charles Babbage - English Mathematician - Biography. (n.d.). The European Graduate School - Media and Communication - Graduate & Postgraduate Studies Program. Retrieved July 17, 2013, from Babbage Biography, Computer models and Inventions. (n.d.). Charles Babbage Biography, Computer models and Inventions. Retrieved July 17, 2013, from Babbage: His Life and Contributions. (n.d.). WWW-CS-FACULTY & STAFF Home Page (12-Apr-1995). Retrieved July 18, 2013, from, D. (n.d.). The Babbage Engine | Computer History Museum. Computer History Museum. Retrieved July 18, 2013, from Babbage . (2012). Retrieved 04:07, July 20, 2013 from A Description of the Brain of Mr. Charles Babbage (1909) | The Public Domain Review. (n.d.). The Public Domain Review | Online journal dedicated to showcasing the most interesting and unusual out-of-copyright works available on the web. Retrieved July 19, 2013, from

Charles continued to improve upon his machines. He left over 20 detailed drawings. He continued to write publishing over 80 papers and three books. He lamented the fact that his machines were never completed due to lack of funding. A biography was written about him titled, "The Irascible Genius," by Maboth Moseley. It is said that he "offended many whose support he needed behaving sometimes as though being right entitled him to be rude" (Swade, 2008). Charles died on October 18, 1871 at his home in London. His brain was kept by the Trustees of the Hunterian Musuem in London, England. Half of his brain is preserved at the Hunterian Museum in the Royal College of Surgeons and the other half is on display in the Science Museum in London.

Early Life


Later Life

In 1810, Charles attended Trinity College (a constituent of Cambridge). It was during this time that he would conceive his first idea for the Difference Machine, the forerunner to the modern day computer. He found Cambridge instruction stale and, in his opinion, outdated as England continued to practice Newton's dot notation instead of recognizing the differential notation theory of Liebniz as the rest of the European continent did. He became friends with John Hershel and George Peacock. Together they formed the Analytical Society in 1812 in an effort to advance the Leibnizian analytical calculus. By 1820, Leibnizian calculus had completely replaced Newtonian calculus at Cambridge. Many other universities in England would follow the example of Cambridge. By 1830 Newtonian calculus had become obsolete. Leaving Trinity, Charles attended another constituent of Cambridge, Peterhouse, from which he graduated in 1814 with an honorary degree without sitting for a final exam. At age 25, shortly after he earned an M.A. from Peterhouse, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society, the oldest society for science. Founded in 1660, it is truly a significant accomplishment to be awarded fellowship as there are only 44 new members appointed each year.

College Life



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