Page:Scientific Memoirs, Vol. 3 (1843).djvu/700

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L. F. MENABREA ON BABBAGE'S ANALYTICAL ENGINE.

numerical tables, the machine can be brought into play so as to give several results at the same time, which will greatly abridge the whole amount of the processes. Thirdly, economy of intelligence: a simple arithmetical computation requires to be performed by a person possessing some capacity; and when we pass to more complicated calculations, and wish to use algebraical formulæ in particular cases, knowledge must be possessed which pre-supposes preliminary mathematical studies of some extent. Now the engine, from its capability of performing by itself all these purely material operations, spares intellectual labour, which may be more profitably employed. Thus the engine may be considered as a real manufactory of figures, which will lend its aid to those many useful sciences and arts that depend on numbers. Again, who can foresee the consequences of such an invention? In truth, how many precious observations remain practically barren for the progress of the sciences, because there are not powers sufficient for computing the results! And what discouragement does the perspective of a long and arid computation cast into the mind of a man of genius, who demands time exclusively for meditation, and who beholds it snatched from him by the material routine of operations! Yet it is by the laborious route of analysis that he must reach truth; but he cannot pursue this unless guided by numbers; for without numbers it is not given us to raise the veil which envelopes the mysteries of nature. Thus the idea of constructing an apparatus capable of aiding human weakness in such researches, is a conception which, being realized, would mark a glorious epoch in the history of the sciences. The plans have been arranged for all the various parts, and for all the wheel-work, which compose this immense apparatus, and their action studied; but these have not yet been fully combined together in the drawings[1] and mechanical notation[2]. The confidence which the genius of Mr. Babbage must inspire, affords legitimate ground for hope that this enterprise will be crowned with success; and while we render homage to the intelligence which directs it, let us breathe aspirations for the accomplishment of such an undertaking.

  1. This sentence has been slightly altered in the translation in order to express more exactly the present state of the engine.—Note by Translator.
  2. The notation here alluded to is a most interesting and important subject, and would have well deserved a separate and detailed Note upon it, amongst those appended to the Memoir. It has, however, been impossible, within the space allotted, even to touch upon so wide a field.—Note by Translator.