Father of Computingby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Charles Babbage invented the cow catcher, and ironically also invented a machine that made possible the technology we enjoy today. An inventor ahead of his time; Charles Babbage attempted to invent a machine that would even calculate astronomical mathematical tables. He strongly defended the credibility of God’s miracles in an era when science was moving away from a Christian worldview.
Charles Babbage grew up in London. He was fortunate because his father, Benjamin Babbage, was a banker. Not much is known of Charles Babbage’s childhood except that he had ill health at five and strong fevers at ten. Since his father was a rich man, Charles Babbage was able to attend the elite and private schools that ignited his thinking.
Babbage was very smart in mathematics, it is said that he was his own tutor in algebra. (ideafinder.com, 2006) In his twenties, Charles Babbage attended Trinity College and far excelled in mathematics. Since his skills were great in this field, he had a part in founding the Analytical Society. This society was responsible for “promoting continental mathematics and reforming the mathematics Newton taught at the university”. (ideafinder.com, 2006) Around 1820, Charles Babbage had the interest of reducing the error rate of finding mathematical tables by inventing a machine that would do it automatically. At this point, Charles Babbage was completely focused on this subject.
Although Charles Babbage was most known for his machines and his other achievements, such as the osculating light house, Charles also pursued validating the bible and, more directly, God’s greatest miracle, the resurrection of Jesus. Charles Babbage authored the “ninth Bridgewater treatise” (Lawson, 2005). This paper was “On the Power, Wisdom, and Goodness of God, as Manifested in the Creation, published by the Royal Society with money provided by the Earl of Bridgewater.” (Lamont, 1996) After this was completed, he calculated the following:
Babbage used the age of the Earth (6,000 years), the average number of years between generations (30) and estimated population figures to calculate how many people had lived through time. Over all this time only 1 person (Jesus) was crucified, died, buried and rose from the dead. Statistically Babbage showed that the odds of this happening would be about 1 in 100,000,000,000. Using this estimate and the documented, written Word, Babbage told non-believing scientists that they would have to be able to formally document a larger probability that Christ's resurrection did not happen. Scientists have been unable to do so. (Lawson, 2005) The significance of his calculation is that he was able to prove that a miracle could have occurred, whereas the scientists have yet to prove that the resurrection did not occur. Babage figured that secular scientists have no business saying that the resurrection did not occur since they had not done any math calculations to back up their disbelief.
Charles Babbage had some achievements that were not fully realized until long after his death. The first achievement, or partial achievement, was of course the difference machine. The achievement was “partial” because the difference machine was not fabricated until later when Charles Babbage was dead. Charles was not able to complete his machine because of the lack of funds from the government, and of course the lack of technology; for example, not being able to produce the exact dimensions of a certain part. This actually happened with all three of his machines: both difference machines (de1, de2) and the analytical machine.
His last machine was the prototype for the modern day computer. This analytical machine could be told or “programmed” to do certain calculations using punch cards in which the input was determined. The machine was made to "chase his own tail" (charlesbabbage.net) or in other words, feed the output of the machine to the input side to do another calculation. The machine had two basic parts: the “mill” and the “store”. The “mill” took information from the “store” to be calculated and fed to the output. Since the “mill” would be the “CPU” or central processing unit, and the “store” would be the memory, Charles is credited as the father of modern computing. Although circuitry was not Charles Babbage’s idea, he gave birth “metaphorically speaking” to the modern layout of the computer, the memory-CPU configuration.
It is no doubt that Charles Babbage was a great inventor, but more importantly, he was indeed a man of God. In the advancement of the Bible, Gutenburg had invented the printing press and millions gained the printed Word. Babbage contributed to bring mankind that same Word in digital form by laying the groundwork for the computer. In combining math and theology, Babbage held an opinion, supported by statistical analysis, that miracles such as Christ’s resurrection were more probable that what other scientists had assumed.
What is a miracle? Charles Babbage said in the ninth Bridgewater treatise: "Miracles are not the breach of established laws (meaning man-made laws) but indicate the existence of far higher laws (meaning God's laws)." (Lawson, 2005). As told by Swade in The Difference Engine, “Babbage fought for the extension of mankind’s knowledge in the face of society motivated by short term profit. He battled for ideas, not personal gain, and he sacrificed much of his own life to prove their essential proof (Norton, 2001).Bibliography
charlesbabbage.net. (unknown date). Retrieved from http://www.charlesbabbage.net/
ideafinder.com. (2006, May 4th). Retrieved from http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventors/babbage.htm
Lamont, A. (1996, March). Answers in Genesis. Retrieved from http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v18/i2/babbage.asp:
Lawson, R. a. (2005, April). www.crosswalk.com. Retrieved from http://www.crosswalk.com/homeschool/1331731/
Norton. (2001). even before electronics, computers crashed. Christian Science Monitor (198).