Page:Passages from the Life of a Philosopher.djvu/117
TO THE EARL OP DERBY. 101
calculating and printing ABtronomical and Nautical Tables, which was brought under the notice of the Government so far back as the year 1823, and upon which the Government of that day desired the opinion of the Royal Society.
I annex a copy of the correspondence which took place at that time, and which your Lordship will observe was laid before Parliament.
The Committee of the Royal Society, to which the subject was referred, reported generally that the invention was one " fully adequate to the attainment of the objects proposed by " the inventor, and that they considered Mr. Babbage as highly " deserving of public encouragement in the prosecution of his " arduous undertaking."-^JBepor^ of BotfoJ Society, Ist May, 1 823. Parliamentary Paper, 370, 22»kZ May, 1823.
And in a subsequent and more detailed Report, which I annex also, they state : —
- The Committee have no intention of entering into any
^' consideration of the abstract mathematical principle on whi(;li
- ^ the practicability of such a machine as Mr. Babbage's relies,
" nor of its public utility when completed. They consider '^ the former as not only sufficiently clear in itself, but as ^ already admitted and acted on by the Council in their former " proceedings. The latter they regard as obvious to every one " who considers the immense advantage of accurate numerical Tables in all matters of calculation, especially in those which " relate to Astronomy and Navigation, and the great variety
- ' and extent of those which it is the object and within the
" compass of Mr. Babbage's Engine to calculate and print " with perfect accuracy.** — Beport of Committee of Royal Society, 12th Feb., 1829.
Upon the first of these Reports, the Grovemment deter- mined to construct the machine, under my personal super-