Biography of Charles Babbage

Charles Babbage is considered the progenitor of modern computers.

Childhood and youth

Charles was one of four children from Benjamin Babbage and Batsy Plumley. His father was a banker and partner of the firm “Praed’s & Co”, as well as the owner of “Bitton Estate” in Tinmouth. At the age of eight, he was sent to a village school in Alpington, so that he recovered he threatened his health fever.

He studied at the “King Edward VI Grammar School” in South Devon, and later at the “Holmwood academy” in Middlesex, under the reverend Steven Freeman. The school library instilled in him a love of mathematics.

Babbage left the academy for classes with two private professors-a priest from Cambridge, whom he had not learned much from, and a teacher from Oxford who taught Babbage to classical knowledge. Babbage entered the “Trinity College” in Cambridge in 1810. With his friends, he founded the “Analytical Community”, the “Ghost Club”, engaged in the study of paranormal phenomena and a club called “Tongs” for outpatients in psychiatric hospitals. In 1912, Babbage entered St. Peter’s College in Cambridge and, being the best mathematician in the institution, two years later he received a degree without taking exams, having managed to win a debate on a controversial topic.


After graduation, Babbage worked in various places, but almost did not succeed. He lectured on astronomy at the Royal Association and in 1816 received the position of full member of the British Scientific Royal Society.

In 1820, with the participation of Babbage, the Astronomical Society was founded, whose members appealed to Babbage and his friend Herschel to improve the “Marine Directory” by correcting errors in his tables. It was this task that led his thoughts to the idea of ​​automated computing.

In 1822, Babbage presented his report “Remarks on the application of machines to the calculation of mathematical tables” in the Astronomical Society, supporting the report by creating a small difference machine for calculating the table of squares.

In 1823, following the recommendations of the Royal Scientific Society, the British government sponsored the creation of a difference machine – an automatic mechanical calculator designed to reduce polynomials. His friend and engineer Mark Brunel recommended the artisan Joseph Clement to create a mechanism for the device.

The difference machine was not built because of disagreements with Clement on the financing of construction. The second difference machine did not receive the necessary funding from the government and was also not completed. Interestingly, in honor of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Babbage, from 1989 to 1991, a large difference machine
was constructed.

Together with a friend and colleague of the college, John Herschel, in 1825 Babbage worked on the magnetism of Arago’s rotation and on the phenomenon of magnetism arising from the phenomenon. Their work was taken as a basis and expanded by Michael Faraday.

In 1826, Babbage acquired the death tables of George Barrett, who died without publishing his works....

Using as a basis the work of Barrett, Babbage published his work with the title “A comparative survey of various life insurance systems.”

He was refused the post of secretary of the Royal Scientific Society, despite promises. In 1826, Babbage published a diagram of a submerged submarine, which had enough air for four people for more than two days.

From 1828 to 1839, Babbage occupied the honorary position of the Lucas Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, and was also elected an honorary foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Babbage twice tried to get into parliament from the Finsborough district in 1830, but both times he lost with a minimal margin. His political views included the expansion of elective law and the separation of the state from the church.

In 1830, Babbage published a polemical book “Reflections on the decline of science and some reasons for this,” which leads to the creation of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

In 1832, Babbage published a book “The Economics of Technology and Production,” which was one of the first works on the subject of operational research. “Babbage’s principle” implied a division of labor according to the level of qualification. The book “Ninth Bridgewater Treatise” Babbage published with the title “Thanks to the power, wisdom and kindness of God.” He defined his idea of ​​the creation of man as that in which the laws of nature prevail.

Babbage also dealt with cryptology, and at the height of the Crimean War in 1850 he was able to crack Vigenère’s code, but his work was recognized as a military secret and therefore it did not become public.

Basic work

Babbage created a complex device called “Analytical Machine”, which was used for general mathematical calculations and which was controlled by punched cards. The device was constantly modified and modified from 1833 until the death of Babbage.

In 1838, Babbage invented a purifier – a metal frame that was attached to a locomotive and removed obstacles from the path. He also developed a dynamometer that recorded kilometers traversed by the locomotive.

Personal life and heritage

In 1814, Babbage married Georgiana Vitmour. Only four of the eight children of the couple with the names Benjamin Herschel, Georgiana Whitmore, Dugald Bromhead and Henry Prevost, survived to adulthood.

George Babbage died of kidney failure at the age of 79 years and is buried in the Kensal Green Cemetery in London.

In honor of Babbage named the crater on the Moon and the locomotive, as well as the Charles Babbage Institute – Information Technology Center at the University of Minnesota.

Interesting Facts

A friend and admirer of Babbage – Ada Lovelace – is considered the world’s first programmer, since she created an algorithm of actions for the execution of the machine.

Charles Babbage was one of four scientists who, independently of each other, revealed the secret of dendrochronology or the science of tree rings. But the father of dendrochronology is Andrew Ellikot Douglas.

Biography of Charles Babbage