**40****Charles Babbage**34 points - 2 lists - Highest Position: 5 (CJones)**Short Biography**Charles Babbage was an English mathematician and engineer. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, but was frustrated by the available math courses. Along with John Herschel and others, he formed the Analytical Society to better study and promote Leibniz's version of calculus. As a student, Babbage was also a member of other societies such as the Ghost Club, concerned with investigating supernatural phenomena, and the Extractors Club, dedicated to liberating its members from the madhouse, should any be committed to one. He especially hated street music, and in particular the music of organ grinders, against whom he railed in various venues. The following quotation is typical: "It is difficult to estimate the misery inflicted upon thousands of persons, and the absolute pecuniary penalty imposed upon multitudes of intellectual workers by the loss of their time, destroyed by organ-grinders and other similar nuisances."

**Major Discovery**In Babbage's time, numerical tables were calculated by humans who were called 'computers', meaning "one who computes", much as a conductor is "one who conducts". At Cambridge, he saw the high error-rate of this human-driven process and started his life's work of trying to calculate the tables mechanically. He began in 1822 with what he called the difference engine, made to compute values of polynomial functions. Unlike similar efforts of the time, Babbage's difference engine was created to calculate a series of values automatically. By using the method of finite differences, it was possible to avoid the need for multiplication and division. This first difference engine would have been composed of around 25,000 parts, weigh 13600 kg, and would have been 2.4 m tall.

Soon after the attempt at making the difference engine crumbled, Babbage started designing a different, more complex machine called the Analytical Engine. The engine is not a single physical machine but a succession of designs that he tinkered with until his death in 1871. The main difference between the two engines is that the Analytical Engine could be programmed using punched cards. He realised that programs could be put on these cards so the designer had only to create the program initially and then put the cards in the machine and let it run. The analytical engine would have used loops of Jacquard's punched cards to control a mechanical calculator, which could formulate results based on the results of preceding computations. This machine was also intended to employ several features subsequently used in modern computers, including sequential control, branching and looping and would have been the first mechanical device to be Turing-complete.

**Up Next (Tomorrow):** Wait, is this guy a string theorist?