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.

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.

**Bibliography**
*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.