Science and Reform: Selected Works of Charles Babbage

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Cambridge University Press, 1989 - Science - 356 pages
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Charles Babbage was a key figure of a great era of British history. Best remembered for his pioneering Difference and Analytical Engines, forerunners of the modern computer, Babbage was also an active reformer of science and society. Among his friends were the Bonapartes, the Duke of Wellington, the Duke of Somerset, Byron's daughter Ada Lovelace and the reforming Earl of Shaftesbury, whose interest Babbage directed to the factories. In this book, Anthony Hyman has selected passages from Babbage's many publications, including his proposals on profit sharing and life peerages and his ideas on such topics as the applications of science, scientific management, taxation and life assurance. Setting each extract in perspective, Hyman has provided the passages with an explanatory editorial commentary. Together with his concern for the systematic application of science, technology and mathematical method to commercial, industrial and economic problems, his work on computing makes Charles Babbage one of the most remarkable as well as one of the most colourful figures in the history of science.
  

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Contents

The first Difference Engine
35
Life assurance
110
Economic theory
127
Life peerage
202
Babbages philosophy
208
Taxation
225
The Analytical Engines
242
Lighthouse signalling
319
Postscript
327
Copyright

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About the author (1989)

Mathematician, inventor, and prolific writer, Charles Babbage is best known for his conception of the first automatic digital computer. He was born in England in 1791 and educated in mathematics at Cambridge University. Babbage helped found the British Analytical Society, which aimed at incorporating European developments into English mathematics. From the time he was a student, Babbage was drawn to the idea of mechanizing the production of values in mathematical tables. His difference engine of 1822 was to be an all-purpose calculating machine. Although he received government funding to build a large-scale working model of the difference engine, the project never was completed. By 1834 he had developed his ideas for an analytical engine, a computing device consisting of a processing area of wheels and racks, called a mill, for the calculation of decimals. Borrowing the idea of the punch card from the Jacquard mill, he proposed the use of separate card sets, one for controlling procedures and one for storing information that would make the engine "programmable." Lady Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron might have contributed some programming ideas. P Babbage's analytic engine was never successfully built. Although his design was forgotten until his unpublished notebooks were discovered in 1937, his intellectual distinction is that he was the first person to plan a flexible modern mechanical computing device.

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