26 December 1791 – 18 October 1871
Mathematician, philosopher and mechanical engineer who originated the concept of a programmable computer.
First described in 1837 as the successor to his Difference Engine, the Analytical Engine was Babbage’s most ambitious undertaking. It was to be programmed using punched cards. The cards would control a mechanical calculator, which could use as input the results of preceding computations. It would have been the first mechanical device to be, in principle, Turing-complete.
At the height of the Industrial Revolution, when machines where mass-producing valuable goods, few understood why Babbage would want to spend enormous resources on a machine that mass-produced intangible numbers. Babbage’s funding ran dry and his machine was never completed.
A set of commands that his collaborator, mathematician Ada Lovelace, published for it to generate Bernoulli numbers, is considered the first computer program.
Way ahead of their time, a century would have to pass for their dream to come true.