Early Life
     Charles Babbage grew up in London, the son of banker and merchant, Benjamin (Old Five Percent) Babbage and his wife Elizabeth Plumleigh Teape.  His grandfather was Benjamin Babbage, Sr., mayor of Totnes, England.  Charles maintained close ties with that extraordinarily wealthy Totnes region all his life.  The mining and engineering of this western region, with its port at Dartmouth, was particularly important in these early stages of the industrial revolution in the 1800's. During his career, Babbage wrote several articles and books on manufacturing processes along with his many explorations of mathematics.
     Charles Babbage showed an early interest in mathematics teaching himself algebra.  When he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1811, he knew more about mathematics than his instructors.  Babbage received his undergraduate degree and married Georgiana Whitmore, from a well-to-do Shropshire family, in 1814.
The Academic
     Babbage was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1816, and graduated with his Master's from Cambridge in 1817.  He also played a prominent part in founding the Astronomical Society and The Analytical Society in 1820.  By June of 1823, Babbage acquired a grant of £1,500 from the Royal Society to begin construction of his plan for a mechanical device for calculating and printing mathematical tables--the Difference Engine.  Back then a man often earned less than £1.00 a day for his labor, so that was a considerable sum of money.  Machinery to perform math became Babbage's consuming passion.  He repeatedly spent his own money along with solicited funds for his projects.   Replacing his quest to build the Difference Engine with the Analytic Machine  Babbage unsuccessful continued this pursuit throughout his life.
     In 1828, Babbage was appointed the Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge University.  This position had in the past been held by Sir Isaac Newton, who invented differential calculus and formed the theory of gravity. Although he never delivered a lecture, Babbage held the Lucasian professorship for twelve years.  The majority of Babbage's articles on mathematics and related fields were published during his academic career.  He also helped found the Association for the Advancement of Science and the Statistical Society (later the Royal Statistical Society) during this time period.

The Inventor
     Although Babbage never accomplished the construction of his Difference Engine, nor his Analytical Engine, he is still considered the father of computers because these machines inspired the work on modern calculating devices and computers (the second design of the Difference Engine was successfully constructed from Babbage's detailed plans in the 1980's).  In addition, Babbage's practical and mathematical contributions to society were many and lasting.
     His practical contributions  include the locomotive "cow-catcher," the triangular shaped front piece on old-fashioned locomotives designed to clear obstructions off the rail-road tracks.    He worked out the design for the first speedometer, standard railroad gauge, occluding lights for lighthouse signalling, and a device to study the retina of the eye (heliograph opthamoscope).
     Babbage's practical mathematical contributions include the first reliable mortality tables (a mainstay of the insurance industry) and he developed mathematical codebreaking. He demonstrated through his operations research that a fixed price stamp actually generated more income than charging and collecting different sums according to the distance a letter was to travel. This lead to the first class mail system used in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Charles Babbage's published work contributed greatly to the study of calculus, statistics, and he corrected errors common to previous tables of logarithms.
     Although he hated street music and got bored in opera, Babbage at one time experimented with a ballet using sixty dancers all in white with colored lights playing on the white costumes. Colored lights were a new idea.  Although there was a rehearsal with two fire engines standing by, the ballet was never shown to the public because the theater manager feared fire.
     Babbage's campaign against street music through the London Times and the eventual enforcement of "Babbage's Act", made him a target of ridicule by the general public.  In spite of this, he was a leading figure in London society for some twenty-five years, regularly meeting and holding parties with liberal intellectuals from all over Europe.
     Babbage had an incredible fascination with statistics and attempted to measure all kinds of things, from the "frequency of the causes of breaking of plate glass windows" to the amount of food consumed by different zoo animals.  He unsuccessfully attempted to mathematically handicap horse races and Lady Ada Lovelace (Lord Byron's daughter) was nearly disgraced by her debts incurred gambling and helping to finance the Analytical Engine.

Later Life
     In 1827, at the age of 35, Babbage's wife, Georgiana, died, leaving him with three surviving children, Benjamin Herschel, Henry Prevost, and Georgiana.  Babbage never remarried.
     In 1833, he met Lady Ada Lovelace when she wrote to him asking about a math tutor.  Encouraged by her husband and her mother,  Lovelace was inspired by Babbage to become his student of mathematics, very unusual for a woman in that age.  She contributed funds to work toward building the Analytical Engine and worked on programs for the potential machine.
     In addition to mathematical thought, Babbage contributed to thought on political economy.  His focus was on factories rather than agriculture.  His discussions of the division of labor were used by Karl Marx to create the Marxist theory of capitalism.    In later life, Babbage was often incoherent when he spoke in public.  His difficulty with verbal persuasion contributed both to his failure to raise sufficient funds to complete his Analytical Engine and to his twice unsuccessful bid as a Whig candidate for Parliament.  By the time Babbage reached his mid fifties, he had switched from liberalism to conservatism and found capitalism and democracy incompatible.
     At the end of his life, Charles Babbage was embittered by the changes made in London by the Industrial Revolution and disappointed by his failure to finance the building of the Analytic Engine.   When he died at home in 1871, the Royal Society did not print an obituary, and the London Times made fun of him.

About Babbage
Charles Babbage, Father of the Computer. Dan S. Halacy. New  York: Macmillan Co., 1970.
Charles Babbage, Pioneer of the Computer. Anthony Hyman.  Princeton  NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982.
Irascible Genius: a Life of Charles Babbage, Inventor. Maboth  Mosely.  London: Hutchinson, 1964.
Mathematical Work of Charles Babbage.  John Michael Dubbey.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978.
Memoir of the Life and Labours of the Late Charles Babbage Esq.,  F.R.S.  H. W. Buxton. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1988.  Charles  Babbage Institute Reprint Series, vol. 13.