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On "Babbage and Kings"and "How Sausage Was Made": And Now for the Rest of the Story1

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129904D
Original Publication Date: 1995-Dec-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

J.A.N. LEE: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

[Footnote] 2 Throughout the report we have chosen to correct the spelling in some of the correspondence rather than embarrass the authors. In other cases the spelling preferred by this publication has been used. While this is not common practice in the reprinting of historical documents, it was felt to be appropriate herein. In 1983, Annals published a paper by Alfred W. van Sinderen entitled ";Babbage's Letter to Quetelet, May 1835."; This letter is of interest since it appears to be Babbage's first reference to the Analytical Engine, and its translation into French by Adolphe Quetelet and publication by l'Academie Royale de Belgique was perhaps the first in- .print reference. Several years later, in 1843, a shortened English version, that was not truly a translation from the l'Academie Royale version, was published in Scientific Memoirs, edited by Richard Taylor.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1995 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

On "Babbage and Kings"and "How Sausage Was Made": And Now for the Rest of the Story11

J.A.N. LEE

A letter dated April 27, 1835 from Charles Babbage to Adolphe Quetelet has been identified as the earliest known reference to the Analytical Engine. The letter was later translated into French and published in the Bulletin of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Brussels in May 1935, and then once again translated back to English to appear in Scientific Memoirs edited by Richard and John E. Taylor in 1843. A 1983 paper by Alfred van Sinderen in the Annals discussed the letter in its 1835 and 1843 reprints, but stated that "the original is not known to exist. Herman Berg, a part-time student at the University of Michigan, located the original April 1835 letter in the archives of the Royal Academy, and has since claimed some measure of "intellectual ownership" of the letter. The story of his failures to get the reports of his "find" published in the history of computing literature and the lack of acknowledgment of the "find" in other publications led Michael David, Illinois Institute of Technology, to publish two other papers charging the editors and authors of the Annals and the editors of the "Works of Charles Babbage" with forms of plagiarism. This report is a response to those charges.

Introduction2

2 In 1983, Annals published a paper by Alfred W. van Sinderen entitled "Babbage's Letter to Quetelet, May 1835." This letter is of interest since it appears to be Babbage's first reference to the Analytical Engine, and its translation into French by Adolphe Quetelet and publication by l'Academie Royale de Belgique was perhaps the first in- .print reference. Several years later, in 1843, a shortened English version, that was not truly a translation from the l'Academie Royale version, was published in Scientific Memoirs, edited by Richard Taylor.

Van Sinderen did not have access to the original letter, and reported, "The exact date of this letter is not clear, and the original is not known to exist." He had written in 1981 to the archivist of the Royal Academy in Brussels to locate the original letter, on the assumption that if they had the translation they might also have the original. Later that year Henri Peyre, a professor of French at Yale, visited the Royal Academy during a visit to Brussels and made a personal inquiry about the original letter on behalf of van Sinderen. They were unable to locate it, but Peyre did find that there was an archive of private correspondence of Quetelet's that was not yet indexed. However, van Sinderen received a note shortly thereafter that stated that the Royal Academy could not locate the original. Van Sinderen, though located in New Haven and a Yale alumnus, was busy doing his full-time job as chairman of the board of t...