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Charles Babbage Quotes


Charles Babbage
  • Mini Bio
  • Name: Charles Babbage
  • Born: 26th December 1791, Southwark, London, U.K.
  • Died: 18th October 1871, Marylebone, London, U.K.
  • Resting place: Kensal Green Cemetery, London
  • Alma mater: Peterhouse College, Cambridge
  • Occupation: Mathematician and inventor
  • Famous for: Conceiving the concept of the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine
  • Influenced by: Blaise Pascal, Gaspard Monge, John Herschel, Louis François Antoine Arbogast, Robert Woodhouse and Wilhelm Schickard
  • Inspired: Ada Lovelace, George Holyoake, George Julius Poulett Scrope, Howard Aiken, Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, Léon Lalanne, Percy Ludgate, Vannevar Bush and William Jevons
  • Nickname: The Father Of Computing
  • Marriage resume: Georgiana Whitmore 1814 - 1827 (her death)
  • Books: He was an avid writer who published many papers and books including: Passages from the Life of a Philosopher (1864), On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures (1832) and Reflections on the Decline of Science in England (1830)
  • Trivia: Plans are afoot by the scientific community to build and showpiece in a museum his Analytical Engine complete to the standards of 19th century engineering
  • Scroll down for full bio and many great quotes

"As soon as an Analytical Engine exists, it will necessarily guide the future course of the science"

Charles Babbage

"You will be able to appreciate the influence of such an Engine on the future progress of science. I live in a country which is incapable of estimating it"

Charles Babbage

"There are few circumstances which so strongly distinguish the philosopher, as the calmness with which he can reply to criticisms he may think undeservedly severe"

Charles Babbage

"The limits of man's observation lie within very narrow boundaries, and it would be arrogance to suppose that the reach of man's power is to form the limits of the natural world"

Charles Babbage

"The universe offers daily proof of the existence of power of which we know nothing, but whose mighty agency nevertheless manifestly appears in the most familiar works of creation"

Charles Babbage

"The errors which arise from the absence of facts are far more numerous and more durable than those which result from unsound reasoning respecting true data"

Charles Babbage

"The division of labour can be applied with equal success to mental as to mechanical operations, and that it ensures in both the same economy of time"

Charles Babbage

"If we look at the fact, we shall find that the great inventions of the age are not, with us at least, always produced in universities"

Charles Babbage

"The triumph of the industrial arts will advance the cause of civilization more rapidly than its warmest advocates could have hoped"

Charles Babbage

"We must be careful to discriminate between our own incapacity to test truth and the necessary improbability of an event"

Charles Babbage

"At each increase of knowledge, as well as on the contrivance of every new tool, human labour becomes abridged"

Charles Babbage

"Numbers are the masters of the weak, but the slaves of the strong"

Charles Babbage

"We must not measure the credibility or incredibility of an event by the narrow sphere of our own experience"

Charles Babbage

"Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all"

Charles Babbage

"The whole of arithmetic now appeared within the grasp of mechanism"

Charles Babbage

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Charles Babbage Biography

Charles Babbage was the British polymath who was inspired to design a mechanical computing device that was the fore runner for all modern day computers. His time at Cambridge university was somewhat controversial as his thesis was considered blasphemous and after being the top mathematician at Peterhouse College (Cambridge) he received his degree without examination.



Post Cambridge Babbage applied for many notable positions but he kept being turned down as the shadow of his university days seemed to cast aspersions onto his suitability for an academic role. He had the good fortune of hailing from a wealthy family as his father assisted him financially through what was a challenging time. Undaunted by the lack of career in academia he became interested in solving errors that arose from calculating mathematical data and he was involved in setting up the Astronomical Society in 1820 that was a serious rival to the authority of the establishments Royal Society.

In order to help calculate astronomical tables he designed his Difference Engine and a small prototype was constructed for demonstrations which led to him improving the design for the Difference Engine No 2. During his life neither of the difference engines were completely built due to a lack of funding but still Babbage continued his research which led him to designing a more complex machine called the Analytical Engine that used techniques such as sequential control, condition transfer, branching and looping that are the basic features in modern computing.

The Analytical Engine was to use punch cards to input data and he also designed a printer to output the calculated results. In 1991 the London Science Museum used his plans and drawings to build a Difference Engine and by the year 2000 they had also built the Babbage Printer with plans to build his Analytical Engine in the coming years. Babbage was instrumental in the development of technology and is one of the most influential scientists in computing history.

In the midst of his 1820's successes even Cambridge University forgave his earlier indiscretions and offered him the role of Professor which he failed to achieve with previous applications in 1820, 1823 and 1826. When he wasn't inventing state of the art mechanical calculators he was good for a one liner also, so the list above is my compilation of 15 of the best Charles Babbage quotes

Quotes About Charles Babbage

Fellow scientist Ada Lovelace simply said: "We may say most aptly that the Analytical Engine weaves algebraical patterns just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves"

The scientist Anthony Hyman described him thus: "Babbage wrote with many talents: a natural philosopher and mechanical engineer, his knowledge of factory and workshop practice was encyclopaedic; he was well-versed in relevant business practice; and he was without rival as a mathematician among contemporary British political economists"


Charles Babbage image quote