- Charles Babbage was known as the ‘father of computing’ due to his enormous contribution towards futuristic developments.
- His Differential and Analytical Engine were groundbreaking inventions of the time and earned him the ‘Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society’.
- He had a tough childhood due to his fathers death and bullying he faced. He is a self taught individual until he joined Trinity College, Cambridge from where he earned his degree.
Who Was Charles Babbage?
Charles Babbage was a mathematician and polymath born in 1791, the son of a wealthy textile merchant. He studied mathematics at Cambridge and eventually became Lucasian professor of mathematics. At this point in his life he had already invented many calculating machines, one of which could make mathematical calculations using punch cards that were developed by a French engineer Jacques de Vaucanson.
Babbage then became interested with the idea of improving how people calculated. He imagined that all computations could be carried out mechanically and that these devices should be engineered on as small a scale as possible to allow calculation to be made more rapidly and accurately.
- Full Name
- Charles Babbage
- Net Worth
- Gold medal of the national astronomical society
- Benjamin Babbage, Henry Babbage
- Place of Birth
- Fields of Expertise
- [“Mathematics”,”Computer Science”]
- University of Cambridge
- Analytical machine, Differential machine
His ideas, being a great mathematician, led him to develop some mechanical calculating devices including an adding machine, the difference engine and the analytical engine. These inventions were so far ahead of their time that he was unable to have them manufactured while he was alive.
Babbage’s calculating machines were built in the late 19th century by his son, and many ideas that Babbage had used were implemented on more advanced mechanical calculators including those from Germany and America.
In 1951 the first actual computer that could make automatic calculations using an electronic circuit which obeyed instructions represented by binary numbers was made by John Atanasoff.
Early Life and Education
Charles Babbage was born on December 26, 1791 in London, England. His family was very rich and he enjoyed a comfortable life as an infant. However, it all changed after his fathers death when he was only three years old. The family sank into poverty and had to go through hardship as his mother struggled to raise her many children.
He was educated at the Charterhouse School from 1804-1810 but unfortunately he did not show any interest or effort towards mathematics and science as he found those subjects to be boring. He soon realized that school-based education wasn’t for him due to the strict regulations. He just left school one day as he did not want to appear for an exam and moved back home; this was a considerable hallmark in his early life.
At home, he started learning Latin, French and Greek languages on his own without any help from teachers.
Later he was accepted at Cambridge University where he studied mathematics, science and literature. It was there that he became interested in studying about invention. Since he wanted to see if he could figure out how invention worked with math/science.
He lost his mother when he was twenty-one years old and that made an impact on him as he became lonely.
Charles was a mathematician and polymath (someone who is very well-educated in terms of invention, engineering or other subjects that relate to math/science), who studied many topics in his life such as literature and languages.
In 1812, Charles Babbage became an engineer at the royal artillery office where he worked for the next eight years. In 1822, he gave a lecture about invention, this lecture illustrated how invention was related to math/science.
Then later on that same year, he made the first prototype of a difference engine which dealt with numbers – negative/positive whole numbers only dealing with addition and subtraction (without multiplication or division). His invention showed how machines could find solutions to complex problems which then led to the invention of a computer.
After he made this invention, the government didn’t think it was a good invention because they didn’t know what to do with it; they thought it was just too complicated and no one could make anything of it.
He then gave up on invention for a while until 1832 when he started his next invention called “Analytical engine” which was basically an improved version of his first invention with more features such as: multiplication, division, automatic storage/retrieval plus many other tasks This is still considered to be one of the best inventions in history.
It was so complicated that no one at that time could understand it, therefore the invention wasn’t commercialized. Moreover, Charles Babbage took a long time to complete this because he had to design each part himself and make sure that it worked perfectly before starting on another part. He even designed specific parts for inventions such as the ones used in making gears, screw cuts and other mechanical pieces used in the invention.
What Did Charles Babbage Invent?
Charles Babbage is known for inventing the Differential Engine. This a very important invention because this is what eventually led to the creation of the modern computer. The invention was used for complex mathematical calculations using numbers only (for example-no algebra).
This invention was considered one of the most important inventions at the time and that’s why Charles Babbage is called the ‘Father of invention’ because it was his hard work that paved the way for moden technology.
The creation of Differential Engine helped with understanding taxes better (improvement of taxing system) which helped in collection of more taxes. He also worked on making his invention smaller and cheaper than ever before so that businesses could afford.
In 1839, Charles Babbage made another invention called the ‘Analytical Engine’ which was a much improved version of his first invention with more features such as: multiplication, division, automatic storage/retrieval plus many other tasks. This second invention is still considered to be one of the best inventions in history because it helped us understand certain situations better through numbers and calculations.
The Differential Engine and Modern Day Computers
Today, the difference engine can be considered as a prototype of modern day computers, as they look and work in similar manner. For example, both use electricity to power them up, which is why operation is faster than ever before; each part inside the computer has been designed to fit perfectly with others, also important for a computer to function properly.
In addition, both the Differential Engine and the computer are used to solve various mathematical operations and help scientists/businesses understand certain situations better through numbers/calculations/etc. Plus, both the computer and Differential Engine are used to complete tasks that are too long or complex for humans to do.
Charles Babbage: Marriage, Children and Personal Life
Charles Babbage married Georgiana Whitmore in 1827. Charles had many sons born from different women but remained close with all his children; especially his oldest son. Despite all this success, family and happiness, Charles Babbage faced a great deal of adversity in life. Throughout his entire life and as a child too, Charles was constantly bullied by other people because of his appearance (he had a really small head which didn’t look normal to others).
Charles Babbage died in 1871 from old age. One year after Charles Babbage had passed away from old age, a group of people who admired him created a memorial fund for him. The main purpose of this fund was to give awards to those who worked hard and achieved success through scientific work similar to Charles Babbage. The awards are mostly given to people who are working for the betterment of humanity. Which is why many people compare it with the Nobel prize.
The most famous person who received one of these awards was Alan Turing (who is known as “the father of modern computers”) because of his enormous contributions to the field.
Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society
The most notable award that Charles Babbage received was the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. This award was given to him because of his contribution to the field of astronomy-in general. The medal is meant for those who have worked hard in a science/math related career and managed to become one of the best in their field.
Charles Babbage – Published Works
- “An Investigation into the principles of Permanent Magnets, intended asa sequel to those laid down by M. Ampère” (1823)
- “Description & Illustration of Two Calculating Engines” (1832)
- “The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise” (1837-1838)
- “Elements of Determinants” (1849)
- Alan Turing — Complete Biography, History and Inventions: One of the brightest minds of 20th century, Alan Turing made considerable contributions towards development of modern computing. Find out all you need to know about his life and work.
- Landin’s Computing Machine Explained – Everything You Need To Know: What is Landin’s computing machine? Find out here.
- Bill Gates — Complete Biography, History and Inventions: Bill Gates is one of the most successful people in the world today. Find out more about his life and how he became who he is today.