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Charles Babbage

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Charles Babbage

Charles Babbage, FRS (Born::December 26, 1791Died::October 18, 1871) was an English mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer.


Charles Babbage was born in London on December 26, 1791. He was the son of Benjamin Babbage, a London banker. On 25 July 1814, Babbage married Georgiana Whitmore at St. Michael's Church in Teignmouth, Devon. They had seven children, but only three lived to adulthood. Charles' father, wife, and one son all died in 1827.

In 1821 Babbage invented a mechanical computing device, which he called the "Difference Engine", to compile mathematical tables. He completed it in 1832, and he conceived the idea of a better machine that could perform not just one mathematical task but any kind of calculation. This he called the "Analytical Engine" (1856), which was intended as a general symbol manipulator, and had some of the characteristics of today’s computers. He created the first reliable actuarial tables, invented skeleton keys and the locomotive cowcatcher. In 1847 he invented an ophthalmoscope to study the retina, but didn't announce the invention and didn't get any credit for it.

Despite his many achievements, the failure to construct his calculating machines, and in particular the failure of the government to support his work, left Babbage in his last years a disappointed and embittered man. He died at his home in London on October 18, 1871.

In 1991, working from Babbage's original plans, a difference engine was completed, and functioned perfectly. It was built to tolerances achievable in the 19th century, indicating that Babbage's machine would have worked.


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