Today we celebrate the birth of Charles Babbage, the man who invented calculating machines that, although they were never realised in his lifetime, are rightly see as the forerunners of modern programmable computers.
Babbage conceived the idea of his Difference Engine in order to compute the values of polynomial functions without the need for multiplication and division.
Although parts of a prototype were constructed he moved on to an even more elaborate machine, the Analytical Engine that went even further than mechanised arithmetic and would permit general purpose computation. This machine was programmable and with the help of Ada Lovelace programs were written for it.
Charles Babbage (December 26, 1791- October 18, 1871)
Charles Babbage was born in Surrey on Boxing Day 1791. He was the son of a banker, which may have been the source of his fascination with numbers, but whatever the reason he occupied the Lucasian chair of mathematics at Cambridge from 1828 to 1839.
To characterise Babbage as a mathematician is misleading because his interests were much more wide ranging - a polymath is closer.
John Von Neumann is perhaps the first computer age polymath. He seemed to be capable of getting involved in just about any subject. Not content with inventing game theory, cellular automata and puttin [ ... ]