Charles Babbage

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1791, December 26: born

1814: graduates with BA from Cambridge

1814, July 2: marries Georgiana

1815: series of lectures on astronomy to the Royal institution

1816: elected member of the Royal Society

1819: travels with his friend John Herschel to France, meeting intellectuals; probably sees Le Tables du Cadastre of the French Ordnance Survey undertaken by Baron Gaspard de Prony; de Prony organizes 3 commitees to make and check calculations, result is logarithmic tables in 17 folio ms volumes, wanted to print them but proved to be difficult/costly (Essinger 2004, 60)

1821, Summer: Royal Astronomical Society asks Babbage and Herschel to check astronomical tables; tedious work, Babbage says: "How I wish these calculations could be executed by steam!" (Essinger 2004, 66); sets him off thinking about Difference Engine

1821-1833: working on automatic cogwheel-based machine to calculate and print mathematical tables, the Difference Engine

1822, Spring: had assembled small cogwheel mechanism, demonstrates it to Royal Astronomical Society on June 2, 1822 and open letter to Sir Humphrey Davy, president of Royal Society, July 3, 1822, second paper to Royal Astronomical Society on 13 December

1823, July 21: gov't grant of 1500 pounds

1827, February 27: father Benjamin dies, he inherits his wealth

1827, August/September: wife Georgiana dies

1832: finishes 1/7th of Difference Engine

1834, December: conceives of Analytical Engine, not just for mathematical calculations, using punched cards of Jacquard's loom; on December 15, Lady Byron writes about his excitement over discovery in her journal (ESsinger 2004, 81-2)

1839, December: writes letter to François Jean Dominique Arago requesting copy of Jacquard portrait woven by Jacquard loom and any memoirs about him (Essinger 2004, 46-7)

1840, August: leaves England for Paris then Lyons and Turin

1842, 3 November: letter from exchequer saying government was abandoning support for difference engine

1871: died


Essinger 2004

Great paper on Ada Lovelace's computer program:,the%20world's%20first%20computer%20program

Demo of Difference Engine: