Browse Prior Art Database

Babbage's Letter to Quetelet, May 1835

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129312D
Original Publication Date: 1983-Jul-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-05
Document File: 8 page(s) / 35K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

ALFRED W. VAN SINDEREN: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

This article discusses the significance of a letter from Charles Babbage to L. A. J. Quetetet, the Belgian statistician and astronomer, written in the spring of 1835, describing the earliest concept of the Analytical Engine. Quetelet caused the major portion of the letter to be printed, but it has never been fully translated into English. The article includes a modern translation of the full letter and compares it, where appropriate, with the partial translation printed in Taylor's ";Scientific Memoirs"; in 1843.

This text was extracted from a PDF file.
This is the abbreviated version, containing approximately 13% of the total text.

Page 1 of 8

THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1983 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

Babbage's Letter to Quetelet, May 1835

ALFRED W. VAN SINDEREN

(Image Omitted: © 1983 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Permission to copy without fee all or part of this material is granted provided that the copies are not made or distributed for direct commercial advantage, the AFIPS copyright notice and the title of the publication and its date appear, and notice is given that the copying is by permission of the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. To copy otherwise, or to republish, requires specific permission. Author's Address: 227 Church Street, New Haven, CT 06506. © 1983 AFIPS 0164-1239/83/030263-267

Babbage's Letter to Quetelet, May 1835

ALFRED W. VAN SINDEREN .00/00)

This article discusses the significance of a letter from Charles Babbage to L. A. J. Quetetet, the Belgian statistician and astronomer, written in the spring of 1835, describing the earliest concept of the Analytical Engine. Quetelet caused the major portion of the letter to be printed, but it has never been fully translated into English. The article includes a modern translation of the full letter and compares it, where appropriate, with the partial translation printed in Taylor's "Scientific Memoirs" in 1843.

Categories and Subject Descriptors: K.2 "History of Computing] -- C. Babbage, hardware, people, L. A. J. Quetelet Additional Key Words and Phrases: Analytical Engine, Difference Engine

In early May of 1835, Charles Babbage wrote a letter to L. A. J. Quetelet, permanent secretary of the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences in Brussels. The exact date of the letter is not clear, and the original is not known to exist, but Quetelet included most of it as "Correspondence" in the Bulletin of the Royal Academy for the General Session of May 7 and 8 and indicated that he had "just received" the letter. Babbage had not written it with the intention that it would be published (Weld 1848, Vol. 2, p. 385, footnote), but it is of some importance as the first description of the Analytical Engine to appear in print. The original letter, or, to be more exact, that part published by Quetelet, yields some interesting insights into Babbage's work and thoughts; but until now it has been only partially translated into English and some significant sections left out, one of which may explain why Babbage wrote the letter.

In 1843, as a part of the publication of Lady Lovelace's translation and appended notes to General L. F. Menabrea's description of Babbage's Analytical Engine (Huskey and Huskey 1980, pp. 310ff), Taylor's Scientific Memoirs excerpted and partially translated the Babbage- Quetelet letter, which was the first time any part of it appeared in the English language. The Taylor version of the letter was copied by such writers as Charles...