Monthly Archives: December 2016

On Finding Mr. Babbage and a Very Early Mention of the Future of Computing (1822)

JF Ptak Science Books   Post 2657

I was browsing though a volume of Annals of Philosophy1 (1822) for my business, looking for interesting and significant contributions.  Making my way nearly to the end I was not able to come away with anything of particular importance, though there were enough bits in it to make it an interesting purchase for someone, and to probably get a nice blog post out of it. (My main “hook” in the volume’s story for the blog was a happenstance opening of the volume to a page exhibiting two short articles “Definition of a Straight Line” followed a paragraph late by “Black Urine”.) Nearly at the end of the book, though, I came upon a very unexpected “find”: “A Letter to Sir Humphrey Davy, Bart., President of the Royal Society, &c &C, on the Application of Machinery to the Purpose of Calculating and Printing Mathematical Tables…London, 1822” by Charles Babbage (appearing on pp 383-388).  This appeared as a book review in the “Analysis of Books” section of the Annals with the running header of “Mr. Babbage’s Letter to Sir H. Davy”, and published in November 18222.