Charles Babbage, English mathematician

Charles Babbage, English mathematician

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Credit: ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Charles Babbage (1791-1871), English mathematician. Babbage is best known for his pioneering work on programmable computers. Believing that a machine could calculate and produce numerical tables more quickly and reliably than the human "computers" of the time, Babbage designed the Difference Engine to compute values of polynomial functions. After this, Babbage drew plans for an Analytical Engine which could be programmed using punch cards. Neither engine was built to completion until 1991, when London's Science Museum build a Difference Engine from Babbage's plans. Despite this, Babbage was awarded the Royal Astronomical Society's Gold Medal for his Difference Engine, which would have been able to generate mathematical and astronomical tables.

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