- Category : 1791-births
- Type : PSP
- Profile : 1/3 - Investigating / Martyr
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Service 4
British inventor, known to some as the "father of computing" for his contributions to the basic design of the computer through his Analytical machine. His previous Difference Engine was a special purpose device intended for the production of tables. As the inventor of the first universal digital computer, he can indeed be considered a profound thinker. The use of Jacquard punch cards, of chains and subassemblies, and ultimately the logical structure of the modern computer - all come from Babbage.
The son of a Tory banker, Babbage was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. He began his work on the Difference Engine through funding from the British Government in 1827. He founded the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1832 and published "Economy of Manufactures and Machinery" in 1833. Babbage began work on the Analytical Engine in 1834 and founded the Statistical Society of London the following year. In 1871, he published "Passages from the Life of a Philosopher." In his memoir, he wrote that "Miracles are not the breach of established laws, but... indicate the existence of far higher law."
An inept public speaker, he was impatient, critical and crotchety. His great intelligence was not matched by judgment, patience or sympathy. He abhorred street musicians and other nuisances of life on the street whom he found an unwelcome distraction and he was thoroughly disliked by the everyday man who came within range of his distaste. "Many years before, I had purchased a house in a very quiet locality," he wrote in 1864. Then came a hackney stand, and beer shops and coffeehouses, and people. The din beneath his window, the German bands, the pickpockets, came with industry. The railroad and factory brought crowds to London, and with them came meanness and thievery.
By June of 1823 Babbage met with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who granted money and told Babbage to proceed with the engine (which he did, starting work in July). In August 1827, Babbage's 35-year-old wife, Georgiana, died and Babbage traveled to the Continent. By the end of 1828 he returned to England, the initial £1,500 grant gone. Babbage was financing the construction himself. And the exchequer could not recall promising further funds. He obtained a further grant in December 1829 but by the end of 1830, the project lapsed. He could not get further funding for the next eight years. Although £17,000 of public money had been spent, and a similar amount by Babbage, the project was quite stalled. On 11 November 1842, he was once more rejected. He tried to persuade Disraeli the following year, with no success.
Some believed Babbage had "been rewarded for his time and labor by grants from the public use", according to biographer Moseley Maboth (Irascible Genius, Hutchinson & Co., London, 1964). "We got nothing for our £17,000 but Mr. Babbage's grumblings", wrote Sheepshanks in his "Letter to the Board of Visitors of the Greenwich Royal Observatory". "We should at least have had a clever toy for our money". Offered a baronetcy in recognition of his work, Babbage refused, demanding a life peerage instead. It was never granted.
On 5 June 1833, the Lady Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron, at a party. As they became friends, she lost interest in her household and social life, offering to work as his assistant in 1842. Ada did a brilliant job with technical annotations to his calculator and she has been referred to as "the first programmer." Babbage wanted to quantify everything. Fact and data intoxicated him. He tried mathematically handicapping horse races (he was unsuccessful, and Lady Lovelace was nearly disgraced by gambling debts).
He died 18 October 1871, with little note of his passing.