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Charles Babbage was an English mathematician, analytical philosopher, mechanical engineer and (proto-) computer scientist who originated the idea of a programmable computer. Parts of his uncompleted mechanisms are on display in the London Science Museum. In 1991, working from Babbage's original plans, a difference engine was completed, and functioned perfectly. It was built to tolerances achievable in the 19th century, indicating that Babbage's machine would have worked. Nine years later, the Science Museum completed the printer Babbage had designed for the difference engine; it featured astonishing complexity for a 19th-century device.

In recognition of the high error rate in the calculation of mathematical tables, Babbage wanted to find a method by which they could be calculated mechanically, removing human sources of error. Three different factors seem to have influenced him: a dislike of untidiness; his experience working on logarithmic tables; and existing work on calculating machines carried out by Wilhelm Schickard, Blaise Pascal, and Gottfried Leibniz. He first discussed the principles of a calculating engine in a letter to Sir Humphrey Davy in 1822.

Other inventions worth mentioning are: The cowcatcher, dynamometer, standard railroad gauge, uniform postal rates, occulting lights for lighthouses, Greenwich Time signals, and heliograph ophthalmoscope.

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Charles Babbage was an English mathematician, analytical philosopher, mechanical engineer and (proto-) computer scientist who originated the idea of a programmable computer. Parts of his uncompleted mechanisms are on display in the London Science Museum. In 1991, working from Babbage's original plans, a difference engine was completed, and functioned perfectly. It was built to tolerances achievable in the 19th century, indicating that Babbage's machine would have worked. Nine years later, the Science Museum completed the printer Babbage had designed for the difference engine; it featured astonishing complexity for a 19th-century device.

In recognition of the high error rate in the calculation of mathematical tables, Babbage wanted to find a method by which they could be calculated mechanically, removing human sources of error. Three different factors seem to have influenced him: a dislike of untidiness; his experience working on logarithmic tables; and existing work on calculating machines carried out by Wilhelm Schickard, Blaise Pascal, and Gottfried Leibniz. He first discussed the principles of a calculating engine in a letter to Sir Humphrey Davy in 1822.

Other inventions worth mentioning are: The cowcatcher, dynamometer, standard railroad gauge, uniform postal rates, occulting lights for lighthouses, Greenwich Time signals, and heliograph ophthalmoscope. More...

 
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