Charles Babbage

And the Engines of Perfection

By Bruce Collier; James MacLachlan
(Oxford University Press, USA, Hardcover, 9780195089974, 128pp.)

Publication Date: January 1999

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Description
Charles Babbage, "the grandfather of the modern computer," did not live to see even one of his calculating machines at work. A dazzling genius with vision extending far beyond the limitations of the Victorian age, Babbage successfully calculated a table of logarithms during his years at Cambridge University, allowing mathematical calculations to be executed with extreme precision. Only the possibility of human error prevented complete accuracy, and Babbage understood that the only way to attain perfection is to leave the human mind entirely out of the equation. He devoted most of his life and spent most of his private fortune and government stipend trying to improve his difference engines and analytical engines.
Bruce Collier and James MacLachlan chronicle Babbage's education and scientific career, his remarkably active social life and long string of personal tragedies, his forays into philosophy and economics, his successes and failures, and the biggest disappointment of his life-- his ingenious inventions were centuries ahead of the primitive capabilities of Victorian technology.
Oxford Portraits in Science is an on-going series of scientific biographies for young adults. Written by top scholars and writers, each biography examines the personality of its subject as well as the thought process leading to his or her discoveries. These illustrated biographies combine accessible technical information with compelling personal stories to portray the scientists whose work has shaped our understanding of the natural world.

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