His most famous work, more than a product of the religious and academic climate of the era, was a product of the technological climate. The industrial revolution in England, with its ingenious machines like the Jacquard Loom , inspired Babbage to use the new technology of automation for the automation of intellectual labor. In , Dionysius Lardner , an Irish science writer, wrote an impassioned report about an invention he had witnessed — a machine that can produce numerical calculation tables — and found to be a revolutionary achievement that, sadly, in his opinion, had not won the attention and funding it deserved:.
Liberated from the necessity of seeking their support by a profession, they are unfettered by its restraints, and are enabled to direct the powers of their minds, and to concentrate their intellectual energies on those objects exclusively to which they feel that their powers may be applied with the greatest advantage to the community, and with the most lasting reputation to themselves. On the other hand, their middle station and limited income rescue them from those allurements to frivolity and dissipation, to which rank and wealth ever expose their possessors. Placed in such favourable circumstances, Mr.
Babbage selected science as the field of his ambition; and his mathematical researches have conferred on him a high reputation, wherever the exact sciences are studied and appreciated. The suffrages of the mathematical world have been ratified in his own country, where he has been elected to the Lucasian Professorship in his own University—a chair, which, though of inconsiderable emolument, is one on which Newton has conferred everlasting celebrity. But it has been the fortune of this mathematician to surround himself with fame of another and more popular kind, and which rarely falls to the lot of those who devote their lives to the cultivation of the abstract sciences.
This distinction he owes to the announcement, some years since, of his celebrated project of a Calculating Engine. A proposition to reduce arithmetic to the dominion of mechanism—to substitute an automaton for a compositor—to throw the powers of thought into wheel-work could not fail to awaken the attention of the world. To bring the practicability of such a project within the compass of popular belief was not easy: to do so by bringing it within the compass of popular comprehension was not possible.
It transcended the imagination of the public in general to conceive its possibility; and the sentiments of wonder with which it was received, were only prevented from merging into those of incredulity, by the faith reposed in the high attainments of its projector. This extraordinary undertaking was, however, viewed in a very different light by the small section of the community, who, being sufficiently versed in mathematics, were acquainted with the principle upon which it was founded.
By reference to that principle, they perceived at a glance the practicability of the project; and being enabled by the nature of their attainments and pursuits to appreciate the immeasurable importance of its results, they regarded the invention with a proportionately profound interest. This mistake than which it is not possible to imagine a greater has arisen mainly from the ignorance which prevails of the extensive utility of those numerical tables which it is the purpose of the engine in question to produce.
There are also some persons who, not considering the time requisite to bring any invention of this magnitude to perfection in all its details, incline to consider the delays which have taken place in its progress as presumptions against its practicability. These persons should, however, before they arrive at such a conclusion, reflect upon the time which was necessary to bring to perfection engines infinitely inferior in complexity and mechanical difficulty. The calculating machinery is a contrivance new even in its details.
Its inventor did not take it up already imperfectly formed, after having received the contributions of human ingenuity exercised upon it for a century or more. It has not, like almost all other great mechanical inventions, been gradually advanced to its present state through a series of failures, through difficulties encountered and overcome by a succession of projectors. It is not an object on which the light of various minds has thus been shed. It is, on the contrary, the production of solitary and individual thought—begun, advanced through each successive stage of improvement, and brought to perfection by one mind.
Yet this creation of genius, from its first rude conception to its present state, has cost little more than half the time, and not one-third of the expense, consumed in bringing the steam-engine previously far advanced in the course of improvement to that state of comparative perfection in which it was left by Watt. Short as the period of time has been which the inventor has devoted to this enterprise, it has, nevertheless, been demonstrated, to the satisfaction of many scientific men of the first eminence, that the design in all its details, reduced, as it is, to a system of mechanical drawings, is complete; and requires only to be constructed in conformity with those plans, to realize all that its inventor has promised.
This important discovery was explained by Mr. Babbage, in a short paper read before the Royal Society, and published in the Philosophical Transactions in It is to us more a matter of regret than surprise, that the subject did not receive from scientific men in this country that attention to which its importance in every practical point of view so fully entitled it. To appreciate it would indeed have been scarcely possible, from the very brief memoir which its inventor presented, unaccompanied by any observations or arguments of a nature to force it upon the attention of minds unprepared for it by the nature of their studies or occupations.
In this country, science has been generally separated from practical mechanics by a wide chasm. It will be easily admitted, that an assembly of eminent naturalists and physicians, with a sprinkling of astronomers, and one or two abstract mathematicians, were not precisely the persons best qualified to appreciate such an instrument of mechanical investigation as we have here described. We shall not therefore be understood as intending the slightest disrespect for these distinguished persons, when we express our regret, that a discovery of such paramount practical value, in a country pre-eminently conspicuous for the results of its machinery, should fall still-born and inconsequential through their hands, and be buried unhonoured and undiscriminated in their miscellaneous transactions.
We trust that a more auspicious period is at hand; that the chasm which has separated practical from scientific men will speedily close; and that that combination of knowledge will be effected, which can only be obtained when we see the men of science more frequently extending their observant eye over the wonders of our factories, and our great practical manufacturers, with a reciprocal ambition, presenting themselves as active and useful members of our scientific associations.
When this has taken place, an order of scientific men will spring up, which will render impossible an oversight so little creditable to the country as that which has been committed respecting the mechanical notation. This notation has recently undergone very considerable extension and improvement.
Applied Abstract Algebra (Second Edition)
An additional section has been introduced in to it; designed to express the process of circulation in machines, through which fluids, whether liquid or gaseous, are moved. Babbage, with the assistance of a friend, who happened to be conversant with the structure and operation of the steam-engine, has illustrated it with singular felicity and success in its application to that machine.
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An eminent French surgeon, on seeing the scheme of notation thus applied, immediately suggested the advantages which must attend it as an instrument for expressing the structure, operation, and circulation of the animal system; and we entertain no doubt of its adequacy for that purpose. Indeed, when we reflect for what a very different purpose this scheme of symbols was contrived, we cannot refrain from expressing our wonder that it should seem, in all respects, as if it had been designed expressly for the purposes of anatomy and physiology.
Another of the uses which the slightest attention to the details of this notation irresistibly forces upon our notice, is to exhibit, in the form of a connected plan or map, the organization of an extensive factory, or any great public institution, in which a vast number of individuals are employed, and their duties regulated as they generally are or ought to be by a consistent and well-digested system. The mechanical notation is admirably adapted, not only to express such an organized connection of human agents, but even to suggest the improvements of which such organization is susceptible-to betray its weak and defective points, and to disclose, at a glance, the origin of any fault which may, from time to time, be observed in the working of the system.
Our limits, however, preclude us from pursuing this interesting topic to the extent which its importance would justify. We shall be satisfied if the hints here thrown out should direct to the subject the attention of those who, being most interested in such an inquiry, are likely to prosecute it with greatest success.
This philosopher and mathematician, at a very early age, being engaged with his father, who held an official situation in Upper Normandy, the duties of which required frequent numerical calculations, contrived a piece of mechanism to facilitate the performance of them. It was capable of performing only particular arithmetical operations, and these subject to all the chances of error in manipulation; attended also with little more expedition if so much , as would be attained by the pen of an expert computer.
It appears that this machine was one of an extremely complicated nature, which would be attended with considerable expense of construction, and only fit to be used in cases where numerous and expensive calculations were necessary… Nevertheless, it does not appear that this contrivance, of which the inventor states that he caused two models to be made, was ever applied to any useful purpose; nor indeed do the mechanical details of the invention appear ever to have been published.
Even had the mechanism of these machines performed all which their inventors expected from them, they would have been still altogether inapplicable for the purposes to which it is proposed that the calculating machinery of Mr. Babbage shall be applied. They were all constructed with a view to perform particular arithmetical operations , and in all of them the accuracy of the result depended more or less upon manipulation.
Babbage is perfectly general in its nature, not depending on any particular arithmetical operation, and is equally applicable to numerical tables of every kind. Charles Babbage wrote of the invention of that miraculous machine :. One evening I was sitting in the rooms of the Analytical Society, at Cambridge, my head leaning forward on the Table in a kind of dreamy mood, with a Table of logarithms lying open before me. His earliest contrivances to support uncivilized life, were tools of the simplest and rudest construction.
His latest achievements in the substitution of machinery, not merely for the skill of the human hand, but for the relief of the human intellect, are founded on the use of tools of a still higher order. While certainly entertaining, the text is a curious blend of philosophical, theoretical, practical and business considerations:. I reviewed in my mind the various principles which I had touched upon in my published and unpublished papers, and dwelt with satisfaction upon the power which I possessed over mechanism through the aid of the Mechanical Notation. I felt, however, that it would be more satisfactory to the minds of others, and even in some measure to my own, that I should try the power of such principles as I had laid down, by assuming some question of an entirely new kind, and endeavouring to solve it by the aid of those principles which had so successfully guided me in other cases.
I endeavoured to ascertain the opinions of persons in every class of life and of all ages, whether they thought it required human reason to play games of skill. The almost constant answer was in the affirmative. Some supported this view of the case by observing, that if it were otherwise, then an automaton could play such games. A few of those who had considerable acquaintance with mathematical science allowed the possibility of machinery being capable of such work; but they most stoutly denied the possibility of contriving such machinery on account of the myriads of combinations which even the simplest games included.
On the first part of my inquiry I soon arrived at a demonstration that every game of skill is susceptible of being played by an automaton. Further consideration showed that if any position of the men upon the board were assumed whether that position were possible or impossible , then if the automaton could make the first move rightly, he must be able to win the game, always supposing that, under the given position of the men, that conclusion were possible. Whatever move the automaton made, another move would be made by his adversary. Now this altered state of the board is one amongst the many positions of the men in which, by the previous paragraph, the automaton was supposed capable of acting.
Hence the question is reduced to that of making the best move under any possible combinations of positions of the men. Now I have already stated that in the Analytical Engine I had devised mechanical means equivalent to memory, also that I had provided other means equivalent to foresight, and that the Engine itself could act on this foresight. In consequence of this the whole question of making an automaton play any game depended upon the possibility of the machine being able to represent all the myriads of combinations relating to it. Allowing one hundred moves on each side for the longest game at chess, I found that the combinations involved in the Analytical Engine enormously surpassed any required, even by the game of chess.
It is the simplest game with which I am acquainted. I found this to be comparatively insignificant. Once imagined to have an important role in promoting artificial intelligence, animatronic animals have now been reduced to playing roles in television commercials. I therefore easily sketched out mechanism by which such an automaton might be guided. It occurred to me that if an automaton were made to play this game, it might be surrounded with such attractive circumstances that a very popular and profitable exhibition might be produced. I imagined that the machine might consist of the figures of two children playing against each other, accompanied by a lamb and a cock.
That the child who won the game might clap his hands whilst the cock was crowing, after which, that the child who was beaten might cry and wring his hands whilst the lamb began bleating. I then proceeded to sketch various mechanical means by which every action could be produced. These, when compared with those I had employed for the Analytical Engine, were remarkably simple. It is also worthy of remark how admirably this illustrates the best definitions of chance by the philosopher and the poet :—. Having fully satisfied myself of the power of making such an automaton, the next step was to ascertain whether there was any probability, if it were exhibited to the public, of its producing, in a moderate time, such a sum of money as would enable me to construct the Analytical Engine.
A friend, to whom I had at an early period communicated the idea, entertained great hopes of its pecuniary success. On the other hand, every mamma, and some few papas, who heard of it would doubtless take their children to so singular and interesting a sight. I resolved, on my return to London, to make inquiries as to the relative productiveness of the various exhibitions of recent years, and also to obtain some rough estimate of the probable time it would take to construct the automaton, as well as some approximation to the expense.
It occurred to me that if half a dozen were made, they might be exhibited in three different places at the same time. Each exhibitor might then have an automaton in reserve in case of accidental injury. On my return to town I made the inquiries I alluded to, and found that the English machine for making Latin verses, the German talking-machine, as well as several others, were entire failures in a pecuniary point of view.
I also found that the most profitable exhibition which had occurred for many years was that of the little dwarf, General Tom Thumb. On considering the whole question, I arrived at the conclusion, that to conduct the affair to a successful issue it would occupy so much of my own time to contrive and execute the machinery, and then to superintend the working out of the plan, that even if successful in point of pecuniary profit, it would be too late to avail myself of the money thus acquired to complete the Analytical Engine. Aside from the interesting discussion of an automaton mimicking an intelligence playing a game, Babbage mentions in passing the interesting difficulty in distinguishing chance from an inscrutable algorithm.
Even when attempting theoretical rigor when discussing the universality of his proposed Analytical Engine, Babbage seems to rely on too much hand-waving:. These are brought to it by its attendant when demanded. But the engine itself takes care that the right card is brought to it by verifying the number of that card by the number of the card which it demanded. The Engine will always reject a wrong card by continually ringing a loud bell and stopping itself until supplied with the precise intellectual food it demands.
In the Exhibition of there were many splendid examples of such looms. It is known as a fact that the Jacquard loom is capable of weaving any design which the imagination of man may conceive. It is also the constant practice for skilled artists to be employed by manufacturers in designing patterns. These patterns are then sent to a peculiar artist, who, by means of a certain machine, punches holes in a set of pasteboard cards in such a manner that when those cards are placed in a Jacquard loom, it will then weave upon its produce the exact pattern designed by the artist.
In the various sets of drawings of the modifications of the mechanical structure of the Analytical Engines, already numbering upwards of thirty, two great principles were embodied to an unlimited extent.
The entire control over arithmetical operations, how- ever large, and whatever might be the number of their digits. The entire control over the combinations of algebraic symbols, however lengthened those processes may be required. The possibility of fulfilling these two conditions might reasonably be doubted by the most accomplished mathematician as well as by the most ingenious mechanician. The difficulties which naturally occur to those capable ofexamining the question, as far as they relate to arithmetic, are these, —.
The number of digits in each constant inserted in the Engine must be without limit. The number of operations necessary for arithmetic is only four, but these four may be repeated an unlimited number of times. It is also certain that no question necessarily involving infinity can ever be converted into any other in which the idea of infinity under some shape or other does not enter. It is impossible to construct machinery occupying unlimited space ; but it is possible to construct finite machinery, and to use it through unlimited time. It is this substitution of the infinity of time for the infinity of space which I have made use of, to limit the size of the engine and yet to retain its unlimited power.
But when it is considered that any function of any number of operations performed upon any variables is but a combination of the four simple signs of operation with various quantities, it becomes ap- parent that any function whatever may be represented by two groups of cards, the first being signs of operation, placed in the order in which they succeed each other, and the second group of cards representing the variables and constants placed in the order of succession in which they are acted upon by the former.
Thus it appears that the whole of the conditions which enable a finite machine to make calculations of unlimited extent are fulfilled in the Analytical Engine. The means I have adopted are uniform. I have converted the infinity of space, which was required by the conditions of the problem, into the infinity of time. The means I have employed are in daily use in the art of weaving patterns. While Babbage makes some interesting points, he papers over some of the biggest difficulties that would occupy the minds of mathematicians in the following century.
For example, why is it that the four arithmetic operations suffice to define all functions as their combination? Are all four necessary? Instead, he refers the reader to others who may better advocate on his behalf. Here is an excerpt:. Thus, although it is not itself the being that reflects, it may yet be considered as the being which executes the conceptions of intelligence. Here Lovelace, the translator, refers the reader to her note G, below. The cards receive the impress of these conceptions, and transmit to the various trains of mechanism composing the engine the orders necessary for their action.
Now, adrnitting that such an engine can be constructed, it may be inquired: what will be its utility? To recapitulate; it will afford the following advantages:—First, rigid accuracy. We know that numerical calculations are generally the stumbling-block to the solution of problems, since errors easily creep into them, and it is by no means always easy to detect these errors.
Now the engine, by the very nature of its mode of acting, which requires no human intervention during the course of its operations, presents every species of security under the head of correctness: besides, it carries with it its own check; for at the end of every operation it prints off, not only the results, but likewise the numerical data of the question; so that it is easy to verify whether the question has been correctly proposed. Secondly, economy of time: to convince ourselves of this, we need only recollect that the multiplication of two numbers, consisting each of twenty figures, requires at the very utmost three minutes.
Likewise, when a long series of identical computations is to be performed, such as those required for the formation of numerical tables, the machine can be brought into play so as to give several results at the same time, which will greatly abridge the whole amount of the processes. Thirdly, economy of intelligence: a simple arithmetical computation requires to be performed by a person possessing some capacity; and when we pass to more complicated calculations, and wish to use algebraical formulae in particular cases, knowledge must be possessed which presupposes preliminary mathematical studies of some extent.
Now the engine, from its capability of performing by itself all these purely material operations, spares intellectual labour, which may be more profitably employed. Thus the engine may be considered as a real manufactory of figures, which will lend its aid to those many useful sciences and arts that depend on numbers. Again, who can foresee the consequences of such an invention? In truth, how many precious observations remain practically barren for the progress of the sciences, because there are not powers sufficient for computing the results!
And what discouragement does the perspective of a long and arid computation cast into the mind of a man of genius, who demands time exclusively for meditation, and who beholds it snatched from him by the material routine of operations! Yet it is by the laborious route of analysis that he must reach truth; but he cannot pursue this unless guided by numbers; for without numbers it is not given us to raise the veil which envelopes the mysteries of nature.
Thus the idea of constructing an apparatus capable of aiding human weakness in such researches, is a conception which, being realized, would mark a glorious epoch in the history of the sciences. I asked why she had not herself written an original paper on a subject with which she was so intimately acquainted? To this Lady Lovelace replied that the thought had not occurred to her.
It is well to draw attention to this point, not only because its full appreciation is essential to the attainment of any very just and adequate general comprehension of the powers and mode of action of the Analytical Engine, but also because it is one which is perhaps too little kept in view in the study of mathematical science in general. It is, however, impossible to confound it with other considerations, either when we trace the manner in which that engine attains its results, or when we prepare the data for its attainment of those results.
It were much to be desired, that when mathematical processes pass through the human brain instead of through the medium of inanimate mechanism, it were equally a necessity of things that the reasonings connected with operations should hold the same just place as a clear and well-defined branch of the subject of analysis, a fundamental but yet independent ingredient in the science, which they must do in studying the engine.
The confusion, the difficulties, the contradictions which, in consequence of a want of accurate distinctions in this particular, have up to even a recent period encumbered mathematics in all those branches involving the consideration of negative and impossible quantities, will at once occur to the reader who is at all versed in this science, and would alone suffice to justify dwelling somewhat on the point, in connexion with any subject so peculiarly fitted to give forcible illustration of it as the Analytical Engine.
It may be desirable to explain, that by the word operation , we mean any process which alters the mutual relation of two or more things , be this relation of what kind it may. This is the most general definition, and would include all subjects in the universe. In abstract mathematics, of course operations alter those particular relations which are involved in the considerations alter those particular relations which are involved in the considerations of number and space, and the results of operations are those peculiar results which correspond to the nature of the subjects of operation.
But the science of operations, as derived from mathematics more especially, is a science of itself, and has its own abstract truth and value; just as logic has its own peculiar truth and value, independently of the subjects to which we may apply its reasonings and processes. Those who are accustomed to some of the more modern views of the above subject, will know that a few fundamental relations being true, certain other combinations of relations must of necessity follow; combinations unlimited in variety and extent if the deductions from the primary relations be carried on far enough.
They will also be aware that one main reason why the separate nature of the science of operations has been little felt, and in general little dwelt on, is the shifting meaning of many of the symbols used in mathematical notation. Again, it might act upon other things besides number , were objects found whose mutual fundamental relations could be expressed by those of the abstract science of operations, and which should be also susceptible of adaptations to the action of the operating notation and mechanism of the engine. Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.
The Analytical Engine is an embodying of the science of operations , constructed with peculiar reference to abstract number as the subject of those operations. Whether the inventor of this engine had any such views in his mind while working out the invention, or whether he may subsequently ever have regarded it under this phase, we do not know; but it is one that forcibly occurred to ourselves on becoming acquainted with the means through which analytical combinations are actually attained by the mechanism.
We cannot forbear suggesting one practical result which it appears to us must be greatly facilitated by the independent manner in which the engine orders and combines its operations : we allude to the attainment of those combinations into which imaginary quantities enter. These results are the primary object of the engine. These powers are co-extensive with our knowledge of the laws of analysis itself, and need be bounded only by our acquaintance with the latter. Indeed we may consider the engine as the material and mechanical representative of analysis, and that our actual working powers in this department of human study will be enabled more effectually than heretofore to keep pace with our theoretical knowledge of its principles and laws, through the complete control which the engine gives us over the executive manipulation of algebraical and numerical symbols.
Lovelace suggests computers as an alternative entheogen. Source: Wikipedia. The distinctive characteristic of the Analytical Engine, and that which has rendered it possible to endow mechanism with such extensive faculties as bid fair to make this engine the executive right-hand of abstract algebra, is the introduction into it of the principle which Jacquard devised for regulating, by means of punched cards, the most complicated patterns in the fabrication of brocaded stuffs. It is in this that the distinction between the engines lies… We may say most aptly, that the Analytical Engine weaves algebraical patterns just as the Jacquard-loom weaves flowers and leaves.
It holds a position wholly its own; and the considerations it suggests are most interesting in their nature. In enabling mechanism to combine together general symbols in successions of unlimited variety and extent, a uniting link is established between the operations of matter and the abstract mental processes of the most abstract branch of mathematical science. A new, a vast, and a powerful language is developed for the future use of analysis, in which to wield its truths so that these may become of more speedy and accurate practical application for the purposes of mankind than the means hitherto in our possession have rendered possible.
Thus not only the mental and the material, but the theoretical and the practical in the mathematical world, are brought into more intimate and effective connexion with each other. We are not aware of its being on record that anything partaking in the nature of what is so well designated the Analytical Engine has been hitherto proposed, or even thought of, as a practical possibility, any more than the idea of a thinking or of a reasoning machine.
We will touch on another point which constitutes an important distinction in the modes of operating of the Difference and Analytical Engines. In order to enable the former to do its business, it is necessary to put into its columns the series of numbers constituting the first terms of the several orders of differences for whatever is the particular table under consideration.
The machine then works upon these as its data. But these data must themselves have been already computed through a series of calculations by a human head. Therefore that engine can only produce results depending on data which have been arrived at by the explicit and actual working out of processes that are in their nature different from any that come within the sphere of its own powers. In other words, an analysing process must have been gone through by a human mind in order to obtain the data upon which the engine then synthetically builds its results.
The Difference Engine is in its character exclusively synthetical, while the Analytical Engine is equally capable of analysis or of synthesis. These persons being likely to possess but little sympathy, or possibly acquaintance, with any branches of science which they do not find to be useful according to their definition of that word , may conceive that the undertaking of that engine, now that the other one is already in progress, would be a barren and unproductive laying out of yet more money and labour; in fact, a work of supererogation.
Even in the utilitarian aspect, however, we do not doubt that very valuable practical results would be developed by the extended faculties of the Analytical Engine; some of which results we think we could now hint at, had we the space; and others, which it may not yet be possible to foresee, put which would be brought forth by the daily increasing requirements of science, and by a more intimate practical acquaintance with the powers of the engine, were it in actual existence.
It is desirable to guard against the possibility of exaggerated ideas that might arise as to the powers of the Analytical Engine. In considering any new subject, there is frequently a tendency, first, to overrate what we find to be already interesting or remarkable; and, secondly, by a sort of natural reaction, to undervalue the true state of the case, when we do discover that our notions have surpassed those that were really tenable. The Analytical Engine has no pretensions whatever to originate anything.
It can do whatever we know how to order it to perform. It can follow analysis; but it has no power of anticipating any analytical relations or truths. Its province is to assist us in making available what we are already acquainted with. This it is calculated to effect primarily and chiefly of course, through its executive faculties; but it is likely to exert an indirect and reciprocal influence on science itself in another manner. For, in so distributing and combining the truths and the formulre of analysis, that they may become most easily and rapidly amenable to the mechanical combinations of the engine, the relations and the nature of many subjects in that science are necessarily thrown into new lights, and more profoundly investigated.
This is a decidedly indirect, and a somewhat speculative , consequence of such an invention. It is however pretty evident, on general principles, that in devising for mathematical truths a new form in which to record and throw themselves out for actual use, views are likely to be induced, which should again react on the more theoretical phase of the subject.
There are in all extensions of human power, or additions to human know ledge, various collateral influences, besides the main and primary object attained. It does, however, contain some significant points of interest.
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It holds a position wholly its own. Farr, Mr. Glaisher, Dr. Pole, Professor Fuller, Professor A. Kennedy, Professor Clifford, and Mr. Merrrifield, appointed to consider the advisability and to estimate the expense of constructing Mr. Drawn up by Mr. If intelligently directed and saved from wasteful use, such a machine might mark an era in the history of computation, as decided as the introduction of logarithms in the seventeenth century did in trigonometrical and astronomical arithmetic.
Care might be required to guard against misuse, especially against the imposition of Sisyphean tasks upon it by influential sciolists. This, however, is no more than has happened in the history of logarithms. Much work has been done with them which could more easily have been done withont them, and the old reproach is probably true, that more work has been spent npon making tables than has been saved by their nse.
Yet, on the whole, there can be no reasonable doubt that the first calculation of logarithmic tables was an expenditure of capital which has repaid itself over and over again. So probably would the analytical engine, whatever its cost, if we could be assured of its success. While my assumption is that the reader has some basic knowledge of mathematics, there is some terminological confusion surrounding Boolean algebra — an algebra largely based on the one created by Boole, and one of the most important mathematical breakthroughs of the nineteenth century.
Wikipedia makes matters worse by having two separate entries for Boolean algebra, with two conflicting definitions, one of those entries containing both conflicting definition. While the familiar algebra of truth values with truth-table operations, of the elements 1 and 0, is indeed, a Boolean algebra — the smallest one, in fact — it does not at all convey the general Boolean algebra. The general Boolean algebra is explained in this Wikipedia article , but I will very briefly explain some of the basics as we encounter them.
It is this algebra, and not the one composed of just the two elements, 0 and 1, that makes it able to represent Aristotelian logic. Ivor Grattan-Guinness , a historian of logic and mathematics, writes:.
Finite of Sense and Infinite of Thought: A History of Computation, Logic and Algebra, Part II
During his adult career British Christianity was in a state of considerable ferment, with the strong rise of Dissenting versions competing with each other and with the established Church of England. Boole belonged to one of these factions: ecumenism, which advocated the One and Only God in contrast to establishment Trinitarianism. This stance was reflected in his logic by the status of the universe 1, to be divided into its components. The link was exhibited in The Laws of Thought , though without announcement and so overlooked by most readers.
The clearest evidence is provided in ch. He greatly admired the book Philosophie— Logique of Father A. Gratry, who larded his own version of logic with religious fervour. The strength of his admi- ration was exhibited in his last days. Late in November he walked to the University in the rain without protection, and after lecturing in wet clothes he soon developed pneumonia.
As he lay at home on his deathbed, he asked that a portrait of Maurice be set up alongside. It was a flash of psychological insight into the conditions under which a mind most readily accumulates knowledge. Many young people have similar flashes of revelation as to the nature of their own mental powers; those to whom they occur often become distinguished in some branch of learning; but to no one individual does the revelation come with sufficient clearness to enable him to explain to others the true secret of his success.
George Boole, poor and with little leisure for study, became known as a learned and original mathematician at an early age. From the first he connected his scrap of psychologic knowledge with sacred literature. But by the help of a learned Jew in Lincoln he found out the true nature of the discovery which had dawned on him. In category theory, initial and terminal objects are generalizations of bottom and top elements, and it just so happens that in the category whose objects correspond to sets and morphisms correspond to functions, the initial object is the one corresponding to the empty set, i.
This, however, is rather close to being a mathematical coincidence, as this category does not represent a Boolean algebra; in the appropriate category, the morphisms correspond to the inclusion relation, and while the initial object still corresponds to the empty set, the terminal object, if it exists, usually does not correspond to a set with a single element. In an letter, George Boole revealed the spiritual and religious motivations for his study of the human mind:.
The ideas of human immortality of modes of being infinitely diversified and bearing no relation to our existing senses in the present life of unlimited advancement and continued development these which are among the realities of our Christian faith are also among the glorious possibilities of the science of the mind. And hence I am inclined to believe that the study of mental philosophy and the trains of reflection to which it naturally leads are favorable both to the growth of genuine poetry and the reception and appreciation of religious truth.
Because he rejected Trinitarianism, and because he considered himself a scientist of the human mind, George Boole perceived the Trinity as a myth born in the human psychology by its interaction with the physical world, with its three dimensions. Mary Boole writes:. The Jew could give no further help. The Trinitarian tendency was seen by George Boole in connection with the fact that man conceives the physical world in three dimensions. His Sonnet to the Number Three gives a clue to his view of this matter. Its significance will be made clear later. Those who can treat this subject sanely and reasonably are almost invariably persons who have become familiar with the Hindu conception of Trinity.
They have been, however, until quite lately, in a very small minority. But he had been endeavouring to give a more active and positive help than this to the cause of what he deemed pure religion. The symbolic logic that is now an essential tool for secular philosophers and that forms the basis for dispassionate computers began in the mind of a warm-blooded, religiously concerned idealist.
If it was lawful to regard it from without , as connecting itself through the medium of Number with the intuitions of Space and Time, it was lawful also to regard it from within , as based upon facts of another order which have their abode in the constitution of the Mind. Boole writes: Many people think that it is impossible to make Algebra about anything except number. This is a complete mistake. We make an Algebra whenever we arrange facts that we know round a centre which is a statement of what it is that we want to know and do not know; and then proceed to deal logically with all the statements, including the statement of our own ignorance.
Algebra can be made about anything which any human being wants to know about. Everybody ought to be able to make Algebras; and the sooner we begin the better. It is best to begin before we can talk; because, until we can talk, no one can get us into illogical habits; and it is advisable that good logic should get the start of bad. Many children grow superstitious, and think that you cannot carry except in tens; or that it is wrong to carry in anything but tens. The use of algebra is to free them from bondage to all this superstitious nonsense, and help them to see that the numbers would come just as right if we carried in eights or twelves or twenties.
It is a little difficult to do this at first, because we are not accustomed to it; but algebra helps to get over our stiffness and set habits and to do numeration on any basis that suits the matter we are dealing with. You may some day become a teacher. They like being kind and honest better than being selfish and dishonest, and they become kind and honest without thinking much about it. Every system of interpretation which does not affect the truth of the relations supposed, is equally admissible, and it is thus that the same process may, under one scheme of interpretation, represent the solution of a question on the properties of numbers, under another, that of a geometrical problem, and under a third, that of a problem of dynamics or optics.
This principle is indeed of fundamental importance ; and it may with safety be affirmed, that the recent advances of pure analysis have been much assisted by the influence which it has exerted in directing the current of investigation. The consideration of that view which has already been stated, as embodying the true principle of the Algebra of Symbols, would, however, lead us to infer that this conclusion is by no means necessary. If every existing interpretation is shewn to involve the idea of magnitude, it is only by induction that we can assert that no other interpretation is possible.
And it may be doubted whether our experience is sufficient to render such an induction legitimate. The history of pure Analysis is, it may be said, too recent to permit us to set limits to the extent of its applications. The theory of Logic is thus intimately connected with that of Language. A successful attempt to express logical propositions by symbols, the laws of whose combinations should be founded upon the laws of the mental processes which they represent, would, so far, be a step toward a philosophical language… Assuming the notion of a class, we are able, from any conceivable collection of objects, to separate by a mental act, those which belong to the given class, and to contemplate them apart from the rest.
Such, or a similar act of election, we may conceive to be repeated. The group of individuals left under consideration may be still further limited, by mentally selecting those among them which belong to some other recognised class, as well as to the one before contemplated. Now the several mental operations which in the above case we have supposed to be performed, are subject to peculiar laws. It is possible to assign relations among them, whether as respects the repetition of a given operation or the succession of different ones, or some other particular, which are never violated.
It is, for example, true that the result of two successive acts is unaffected by the order in which they are performed; … and there are at least two other laws which will be pointed out in the proper place. These will perhaps to some appear so obvious as to be ranked among necessary truths, and so little important as to be undeserving of special notice. And probably they are noticed for the first time in this Essay. Yet it may with confidence be asserted, that if they were other than they are, the entire mechanism of reasoning, nay the very laws and constitution of the human intellect, would be vitally changed.
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A Logic might indeed exist, but it would no longer be the Logic we possess. Such are the elementary laws upon the existence of which, and upon their capability of exact symbolical expression, the method of the following Essay is founded; and it is presumed that the object which it seeks to attain will be thought tohave been very fully accomplished. Every logical proposition, whether categorical or hypothetical, will be found to be capable of exact and rigorous expression, and not only will the laws of conversion and of syllogism be thence deducible, but the resolution of the most complex systems of propositions, the separation of any proposed element, and the expression of its value in terms of the remaining elements, with every subsidiary relation involved.
Every process will represent deduction, every mathematical consequence will express a logical inference. The generality of the method will even permit us to express arbitrary operations of the intellect, and thus lead to the demonstration of general theorems in logic analogous, in no slight degree, to the general theorems of ordinary mathematics.
I speak here with reference to the theory of reasoning, and to the principle of a true classification of the forms and cases of Logic considered as a Science. The aim of these investigations was in the first instance confined to the expression of the received logic, and to the forms of the Aristotelian arrangement, but it soon became apparent that restrictions were thus introduced, which were purely arbitrary and had no foundation in the nature of things.
One of the chief objections which have been urged against the study of Mathematics in general, is but another form of that which has been already considered with respect to the use of symbols in particular. And it need not here be further dwelt upon, than to notice, that if it avails anything, it applies with an equal force against the study of Logic.
The canonical forms of the Aristotelian syllogism are really symbolical; only the symbols are less perfect of their kind than those of mathematics. If they are employed to test the validity of an argument, they as truly supersede the exercise of reason, as does a reference to a formula of analysis. Whether men do, in the present day, make this use of the Aristotelian canons, except as a special illustration of the rules of Logic, may be doubted; yet it cannot be questioned that when the authority of Aristotle was dominant in the schools of Europe, such applications were habit ually made.
In fact, Omar Khayyam, who is best remembered for his brilliant verses on wine, song, love, and friendship which are collected in the Rubaiyat —but who was also a great mathematician—explicitly defined algebra as the science of solving equations. Thus, as we enter upon the threshold of the classical age of algebra, its central theme is clearly identified as that of solving equations. But nobody had yet found a general solution for cubic equations.
The setting is Italy and the time is the Renaissance—an age of high adventure and brilliant achievement, when the wide world was reawakening after the long austerity of the Middle Ages. America had just been discovered, classical knowledge had been brought to light, and prosperity had returned to the great cities of Europe. It was a heady age when nothing seemed impossible and even the old barriers of birth and rank could be overcome. Courageous individuals set out for great adventures in the far corners of the earth, while others, now confident once again of the power of the human mind, were boldly exploring the limits of knowledge in the sciences and the arts.
The ideal was to be bold and many-faceted, to "know something of everything, and everything of at least one thing. The study of algebra was reborn in this lively milieu. Those men who brought algebra to a high level of perfection at the beginning of its classical age—all typical products of the Italian Renaissanee —were as colorful and extraordinary a lot as have ever appeared in a chapter of history. Arrogant and unscrupulous, brilliant, flamboyant, swaggering, and remarkable, they lived their lives as they did their work: with style and panache, in brilliant dashes and inspired leaps of the imagination.
The spirit of scholarship was not exactly as it is today. These men, instead of publishing their discoveries, kept them as well-guarded secrets to be used against each other in problem-solving competitions. Such contests were a popular attraction: heavy bets were made on the rival parties, and their reputations as well as a substantial purse depended on the outcome. One of the most remarkable of these men was Girolamo Cardan.
Cardan was born in as the illegitimate son of a famous jurist of the city of Pavia. A man of passionate contrasts, he was destined to become famous as a physician, astrologer, and mathematician—and notorious as a compulsive gambler, scoundrel, and heretic.
After he graduated in medicine, his efforts to build up a medical practice were so unsuccessful that he and his wife were forced to seek refuge in the poorhouse. With the help of friends he became a lecturer in mathematics, and, after he cured the child of a senator from Milan, his medical career also picked up. He was finally admitted to the college of physicians and soon became its rector.
A brilliant doctor, he gave the first clinical description of typhus fever, and as his fame spread he became the personal physician of many of the high and mighty of his day. Cardan's early interest in mathematics was not without a practical side. As an inveterate gambler he was fascinated by what he recognized to be the laws of chance. He wrote a gamblers' manual entitled Book on Games of Chance , which presents the first systematic computations of probabilities.
He also needed mathematics as a tool in casting horoscopes, for his fame as an astrologer was great and his predictions were highly regarded and sought after. His most important achievement was the publication of a book called Ars Magna The Great Art , in which he presented systematically all the algebraic knowledge of his time. However, as already stated, much of this knowledge was the personal secret of its practitioners, and had to be wheedled out of them by cunning and deceit.
The most important accomplishment of the day, the general solution of the cubic equation which had been discovered by Tartaglia, was obtained in that fashion. Tartaglia's life was as turbulent as any in those days. Born with the name of Niccolo Fontana about , he was present at the occupation of Brescia by the French in He and his father fled with many others into a cathedral for sanctuary, but in the heat of battle the soldiers massacred the hapless citizens even in that holy place.
The father was killed, and the boy, with a split skull and a deep saber cut across his jaws and palate, was left for dead. At night his mother stole into the cathedral and managed to carry him off; miraculously he survived. The horror of what he had witnessed caused him to stammer for the rest of his life, earning him the nickname Tartaglia , "the stammerer," which he eventually adopted.
Tartaglia received no formal schooling, for that was a privilege of rank and wealth. However, he taught himself mathematics and became one of the most gifted mathematicians of his day. He translated Euclid and Archimedes and may be said to have originated the science of ballistics, for he wrote a treatise on gunnery which was a pioneering effort on the laws of falling bodies.
When be announced his accomplishment without giving any details, of course , he was challenged to an algebra contest by a certain Antonio Fior, a pupil of the celebrated professor of mathematics Scipio del Ferro. It was agreed that each contestant was to draw up 30 problems and hand the list to his opponent. Whoever solved the greater number of problems would receive a sum of money deposited with a lawyer. A few days before the contest, Tartaglia found a way of extending his method so as to solve any cubic equation. In less than 2 hours he solved all his opponent's problems, while his opponent failed to solve even one of those proposed by Tartaglia.
For some time Tartaglia kept his method for solving cubic equations to himself, but in the end he succumbed to Cardan's accomplished powers of persuasion. Influenced by Cardan's promise to help him become artillery adviser to the Spanish army, he revealed the details of his method to Cardan under the promise of strict secrecy. A few years later, to Tartaglia's unbelieving amazement and indignation, Cardan published Tartaglia's method in his book Ars Magna.
Even though he gave Tartaglia full credit as the originator of the method, there can be no doubt that he broke his solemn promise. A bitter dispute arose between the mathematicians, from which Tartaglia was perhaps lucky to escape alive. He lost his position as public lecturer at Brescia, and lived out his remaining years in obscurity. The next great step in the progress of algebra was made by another member of the same circle.
It was Ludovico Ferrari who discovered the general method for solving quartic equations—equations of the form. Ferrari was Cardan's personal servant. As a boy in Cardan's service he learned Latin, Greek, and mathematics. He won fame after defeating Tartaglia in a contest in , and received an appointment as supervisor of tax assessments in Mantua. This position brought him wealth and influence, but he was not able to dominate his own violent disposition. He quarreled with the regent of Mantua, lost his position, and died at the age of Tradition has it that he was poisoned by his sister.
As for Cardan, after a long career of brilliant and unscrupulous achievement, his luck finally abandoned him. Cardan's son poisoned his unfaithful wife and was executed in