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Q & A: Charles Babbage

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Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
Q:
I would like to find a short biography of Charles Babbage but everything I find is too hard to understand or too detailed. I was wondering if you could give me some information. Thanks.
- seastar
Melbourne Girls’, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
A:
Seastar -

Charles Babbage was a English mathematician who lived from 1791-1871. He did a lot of important things in mathematics while working at Cambridge University, but he seems to be most famous for his designs for the "Difference Engine #1" and the "Analytical Engine" - these were basically designs for early calculators. The Difference Engine was designed to create mathematical tables and was finally finished in 1854 by George Sheutz, a Swedish printer. It worked surprisingly well. The Analytical Engine was never finished, but was still a brilliant idea. Calculators like these eventually evolved into today's computers, and Charles Babbage has sometimes been called the "father of computing".

There are some pretty good biographies online at:





My recommendation is that you read through these and any others you can turn up using (just search for "Charles Babbage" and you'll get lots of results). Don't let yourself get intimidated by the details. There's absolutely nothing wrong with skimming through a biography and reading only the parts that make sense.

Good luck!

-Tamara

(published on 10/22/2007)

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