# Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Babbage, Charles

**BABBAGE**, Charles, a distinguished English mathematician and mechanician, was born, 20th December 1792,
at Teignmouth in Devonshire. He was educated at a
private school, and afterwards entered Trinity College,
Cambridge, where he graduated in 1814. Though he did
not compete in the mathematical tripos, he acquired a great
reputation at the university. In the year after his gradua
tion he contributed a paper on the " Calculus of Func
tions" to the Philosophical Transactions, and in 1816 was
made a fellow of the Royal Society. Along with Herschel
and Peacock he laboured to raise the standard of mathe
matical instruction in England, and specially endeavoured
to supersede the Newtonian by the Leibnitzian notation in
the Calculus. With this object the three friends trans
lated, in 1816, Lacroix s Treatise on the Differential and
Integral Calculus, and added, in 1820, two volumes of
examples. Mr Babbage s attention seems to have been
very early drawn to the number and importance of the
errors introduced into astronomical and other calculations
through inaccuracies in the computation of tables. He
contributed to the Royal Society some notices on the rela
tion between notation and mechanism; and in 1822, in a
letter to Sir H. Davy on the application of machinery to
the calculation and printing of mathematical tables, he
discussed the principles of a calculating engine, to the
construction of which he devoted many years of his life.
Government was induced to grant its aid, and the inventor
himself spent a portion of his private fortune in the pro
secution of his undertaking. He travelled through several
of the countries of Europe, examining different systems of
machinery; and some of the results of his investigations were
published in the admirable little work, Economy of Machines
and Manufactures, 1834, which Blanqui has called "a
hymn in honour of machinery." The great calculating
engine was never completed ; the constructor apparently
desired to adopt a new principle when the first specimen
was nearly complete, to make it not a difference but an
analytical engine, and Government declined to accept the
further risk. From 1828 to 1839 Babbage held the office
of Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge. He
contributed largely to several scientific periodicals, and was
instrumental in founding the Astronomical and Statistical
Societies. He only once endeavoured to enter public life,
when, in 1832, he stood unsuccessfully for the borough of
Finsbury. During the later years of his life he resided in
London, and, surrounded by his workshops, still continued
to devote himself to the construction of machines capable
of performing arithmetical and even algebraical calcula
tions. He died at London, 20th October 1871. He gives
a few biographical details in his Passages from the Life of
a Philosopher, 1864, a work which throws considerable
light upon his somewhat peculiar character. His works,
pamphlets, and papers, were very numerous; in the Passages
he enumerates eighty separate writings. Of these the
most important, besides the few already mentioned, are,
Tables of Logarithms, 1826 ; Comparative Vieiv of the
Various Institutions for the Assurance of Lives, 1826 ;
Decline of Science in England, 1830; Ninth Bridgeivater
Treatise, 1837; The Exposition of 1851, 1851.