Charles Babbage

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Charles Babbage.

Charles Babbage (26 December, 179118 October, 1871) was an English mathematician, analytical philosopher and (proto-) computer scientist who originated the idea of a programmable computer.


  • Every moment dies a man,
    Every moment 1 1/16 is born.
    • Parody of Alfred Tennyson, Vision of Sin
    • New Scientist, 4 December 1958, p.1428.
  • As soon as an Analytical Engine exists, it will necessarily guide the future course of the science. Whenever any result is sought by its aid, the question will then arise — by what course of calculation can these results be arrived at by the machine in the shortest time?
    • The Analytical Engine: Passages from the Life of a Philosopher by CHARLES BABBAGE. CHAPTER VIII OF THE ANALYTICAL ENGINE


  • Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all.
  • I wish to God these calculations had been executed by steam.
    • while he and John Herschel were proofreading mathematical tables for the Astronomical Society in 1821.
  • On two occasions I have been asked [by 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.
  • Propose to an Englishman any principle, or any instrument, however admirable, and you will observe that the whole effort of the English mind is directed to find a difficulty, a defect, or an impossibility in it. If you speak to him of a machine for peeling a potato, he will pronounce it impossible: if you peel a potato with it before his eyes, he will declare it useless, because it will not slice a pineapple.
    • with regard to his Analytical Engine, the first programmable computer.
  • The whole of arithmetic now appeared within the grasp of mechanism.
    • with regard to his Analytical Engine.
  • It is therefore not unreasonable to suppose that some portion of the neglect of science in England, may be attributed to the system of education we pursue.

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