“Babbage and his Gem of all Machinery”

On Friday, April 29, I will be speaking to the computer scientists (and humanists) at NYU/Poly in Brooklyn about Babbage and his engines. Although not specifcally a talk about the book, it will address the revolution planned by Babbage, Herschel, Jones and Whewell at their philosophical breakfasts at Cambridge, because several key elements of this planned revolution came together in Charles Babbage’s decades-long quest to build the first computer: the need to highlight the value of precision in measurement and experiment, the initiation of public funding for science, and the directing of scientific innovation towards the common good.

The title is a quote from Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron. It is something she said to the science writer and mathematician Mary Somerville after a factory visit (a common form of entertainment in those days); seeing the factory’s enormous machines reminded Ada of “Babbage and his gem of all machinery.”

For more information, including an abstract of the talk, see this link.

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