School of Information Science - Hall of Fame

Charles Babbage
  • Charles Babbage
  • Born: December 26, 1791
  • Died: October 18, 1871
  • Field: Computer hardware
  • Focus: Regarded as the father of digital computing for invention of Difference and Analytical Engines. Invented numerous other devices.
  • Country: Great Britain
  • Era: 1800s

Charles Babbage is widely regarded as the father of modern digital computing in spite of the fact that neither his Difference Engine nor his Analytical Engine ever worked in his lifetime. The manufacturing technology needed to create parts to build his machines did not exist. However, the logical structure of the modern computer is considered to have come from this invention.

Babbage's Difference and Analytical Engines were based on the rule of finite differences for solving complex equations without multiplying or dividing, but by repeated addition. In 1991, the National Museum of Science and Technology in London built a working machine using Babbage's plans. The device, which weighed hundreds of pounds and operated with a hard crank, has never generated an incorrect answer.

Babbage led a very active academic life. In 1820 he cofounded the Analytical Society in Britain, and in 1827 he published a table of logarithms from 1 to 108000. In 1828 he was appointed to the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at Cambridge, and in 1831 Babbage founded the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Babbage was a prolific inventor. His other inventions include the cowcatcher, dynamometer, standard railroad gauge, uniform postal rates, occulting lights for lighthouses, Greenwich time signals, and the heliograph ophthalmoscope.

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