• Name of Inventor: Charles Babbage
  • Born: December 26, 1791
  • Died: October 18, 1871
  • Place of Birth: London, England
  • Invention(s): Difference Engine, Analytical Engine


photo of charles babbage
Charles Babbage was an English mathematician and a pioneer in the development of modern computer. He was born on December 26, 1791 in today’s Southwark, a borough of London, to Benjamin Babbage and Elizabeth Plumley Teape Babbage. Charles was their first son. His father was a stern man with a terrible temper. Though his mother was attentive and caring, he was brought up largely by nurses.

At the age of 12, Charles Babbage and family moved to Devon. He attended the public schools here. It is while being here that Charles tried to design a contraption which would allow him to walk on the waters, like Jesus did. This was probably his first scientific experiment.

In 1810 he enrolled in Cambridge Trinity College. He studied there for four years. This is where Charles was able to solidify his foundation in mathematics, astronomy and economics. By the time he finished his education, he fell in love with a woman named Georgiana Whitmore. They married on July 2, 1814. Charles and Georgiana had eight children, of which three, all boys, survived.

Charles was at loggerheads with his father most of the time, even after he was elected to the Royal Society on March 14, 1816. In the years which followed, the death of Georgiana’s father, followed by the death of his own father, made the couple financially secure, because both of them came into their inheritances. Georgiana died in 1827, leaving Charles grief stricken. Charles took a long time to recover, and after his recovery, he spent most of his time in designing the difference engine and the analytical engine.

His inventions and his personality helped him to become friends with many famous people, including Charles Dickens and the Duke of Wellington. He also got acquainted with Lord Byron’s daughter in the early 1830s. Ada and Charles worked together for many years, until her death in 1852. The death of Ada shattered Charles, and he spent the rest of his life mostly alone, and tried to keep himself busy by focusing on publishing books and articles. He published around 12 books and over 70 articles during his lifetime. Charles Babbage died at the age of 74 on October 18, 1871.

The science Museum in London England contains a large collection of his papers, note books and engineering drawings. Scientists and engineers are still analyzing his books and drawings.


Difference Engine

photo of babbage's difference engine

A few years before the death of his wife and his father, Charles started working on his Difference Engine. The Difference Engine was a fully automated calculating machine. It was designed to carry out intensive mathematical computations. It operated by leveraging the power of steam. The design of the Difference Engine was extremely complicated and Charles went through a lot of stumbling blocks before he was able to successfully design it. The Difference Engine was funded by the government until 1842. When Charles was unable to finish the design, the government withdrew the funding and thus, the Difference Engine remained unfinished.

Analytical Engine

The Analytical Engine is widely regarded as the predecessor of the modern computer. Charles Babbage started working on this in 1843. He created over 100 drawings for this. He was helped by Ada Lovelace, daughter of the poet Lord Byron in the development of this engine. She documented the design of this engine and her notes were valuable in understanding the design of the Analytical Engine.


  • A tool is usually more simple than a machine; it is generally used with the hand, whilst a machine is frequently moved by animal or steam power.
  • At each increase of knowledge, as well as on the contrivance of every new tool, human labour becomes abridged.
  • The difference between a tool and a machine is not capable of very precise distinction; nor is it necessary, in a popular explanation of those terms, to limit very strictly their acceptation.
  • That science has long been neglected and declining in England, is not an opinion originating with me, but is shared by many, and has been expressed by higher authority than mine.
  • The accumulation of skill and science which has been directed to diminish the difficulty of producing manufactured goods, has not been beneficial to that country alone in which it is concentrated; distant kingdoms have participated in its advantages.
  • Some kinds of nails, such as those used for defending the soles of coarse shoes, called hobnails, require a particular form of the head, which is made by the stroke of a die.
  • Perhaps it would be better for science, that all criticism should be avowed.
  • It will be readily admitted, that a degree conferred by an university, ought to be a pledge to the public that he who holds it possesses a certain quantity of knowledge.
  • Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all.
  • The half minute which we daily devote to the winding-up of our watches is an exertion of labour almost insensible; yet, by the aid of a few wheels, its effect is spread over the whole twenty-four hours.
  • Whenever the work is itself light, it becomes necessary, in order to economize time, to increase the velocity.
  • 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.
  • The possessors of wealth can scarcely be indifferent to processes which, nearly or remotely have been the fertile source of their possessions.
  • The economy of human time is the next advantage of machinery in manufactures.