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The Genius of Charles Babbage and His Path-breaking Inventions

Aparna Jadhav May 12, 2019
For those of you who have studied about his achievements, Charles Babbage is surely not a new name! Find the Charles Babbage inventions, compiled together in this piece with some information about the inventor himself.
Charles Babbage (1791-1871), was a mathematician and mechanical engineer from England who later became a very popular inventor. He was born on December 26, 1791 in London and was the son of a rich father Benjamin Babbage and mother, Betsy Plumleigh Babbage.
His early education was mainly done at home and he tutored himself in algebra, the subject being his favorite. He then entered the Trinity College, Cambridge, in the year 1811 and along with his fellow scientists, founded the Analytical Society to promote continental mathematics and reformed Newton's mathematics which was a subject taught in the university.
He mainly concentrated on calculus of functions, starting his journey to becoming an inventor. He lived till October 18, 1871 and has a credit of many important inventions. Therefore, as a tribute to him, we have put together the inventions of Charles Babbage here. Keep reading.

Charles Babbage Inventions List

Charles Babbage was one of the most learned mathematicians of his time who strove hard to bring his work to life. Like every other inventor he too, went through phases of failure and success, to bring his inventions before the world, so that they could be used.
Because he was the best mathematician then and came up with inventions that made calculating easier, he was called the "Father of Computing".
His contributions include the first Calculating Engine, which later became the modern computer, the Difference Engines (first and second) and the Analytical Engine, that he failed to complete due to lack of mechanical development.

Design of Calculating Engines

Since Babbage was a mathematician he was extremely proficient in calculus, but needed something to make the bigger calculations for his research easier.
Many times, he depended on other people to do these basic calculations and then checked them himself. But with time, he came across a number of errors in the calculation of mathematics tables, which he couldn't afford if he had to use these calculations for research.
Therefore, in 1812, he started thinking about a method with which he could make calculations mechanically and eliminate human errors.
With the inspiration of existing calculators produced by W. Schickard, G. Leibniz and B.Pascal, he came up with designs or calculating machines, which were among the first known mechanical computers.
However, these machines weren't completed because of financial and personal problems but the concept of making calculating quicker and reliable through machines was initiated.

Difference Engine

On the similar basis of his first invention, to make calculating numerical tables precise and free of human errors, he put forth his second invention, the "difference engine".
While he was in Cambridge, in 1822, he found the same problem of human error rate being very high and thus he came up with what he called the difference engine, to compute important values of polynomial functions, mechanically.
He used the method of finite differences and avoided the use of division and multiplication so that a series of values were calculated automatically. This was done in less time, the results were precise and free from human errors.
He later worked on a prototype of the basic difference engine, to make the "first difference engine", which was left un-constructed. Later he designed another improved version and named it "Difference Engine No. 2", but this was not constructed till 1989-91.

Analytical Engine

Even after his attempts to make the difference engine work, failed drastically, Charles Babbage put his mind in designing a more complex machine, that he called the "Analytical Engine".
He put together many designs of his earlier machines and then came up with the engine, which had two main differences. These were, that the analytical engine could be programmed with the use of "punch cards" and that it was a combination of several different machines to calculate numbers with the help of programing them initially.
However, the development of the analytical engine too, failed, because the programs required for its functioning could not be developed with lack of technology. This idea was way ahead of his time and thus he could not make it useful.
With these perfect Charles Babbage inventions, you may be wondering about how his brains worked! Well, that was the great inventor Charles Babbage, who's inventions definitely gave mathematics and engineering a whole new way of looking at things.