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Babbage Mathematician / Xmas Lunch 2021

Babbage Mathematician. 

Presentation by Ian Handford 1st December 2021

Recorded by Rick Purnell 

Babbage the 20th Century Pioneer of the computer age,……

The last meeting of the year Ian Handford, the Chairman of the Torbay Civic Society, addressed the members of Teignmouth Men's Probus Club with a talk about one of the town’s former famous residents– Charles Babbage. Born in London in 1791 to a wealthy banking family, Charles Babbage spent most of his formative years in Teignmouth schooling in Exeter before Trinity and Peterham Collages Cambridge, having a passion and talent for mathematics with interests in chemistry and social sciences. He together with Willian Herschel (later of astronomical fame) founded the Analytical Society, married in Teignmouth in 1812 before returning to London becoming a member of the Royal Society. His thoughts turned to the need for a calculation machine to aid the use of logarithms and ships computed tally of cargo and discharges. He studied navigation and tide tables and believed that it might be calculated by a machine to calculate and print.

In 1833 he received funds of £1500 to create a difference engine. His design and drawings used 25,000 parts. In theory this mechanical device could make calculations with 31 digit answers but it was not built because the technology and materials of the day were not available. A second grant brought about a second difference engine leading to the use of punched cards which aided complicated weaving – Jacquard machines. This innovation was always accurate, no mistakes and was also found to be of assistance to actuaries. Lack of funds stopped further development but his drawings survived and to celebrate his 200th anniversary his Difference Machine was build and worked.  Long after his death in 1871 his principles and calculations were used to create the first digital computer and a new science was born. Babbage’s other inventions included safety devices for lighthouses, the first cow-grid on trains to assist line clearance, a heliograph signalling device and code breaking and cypher systems, he was a genius ahead of his times limited only by the tech to make it.

An amusing vote of thanks was given by Steve Battersby.

The final event of the year was a Christmas celebration (last held 2019 because of the Covid-19 pandemic) with a very welcome and enjoyable Christmas luncheon with our Ladies, held at Teignmouth Golf Club.

The next meeting after the Festive break is the AGM on the 19th January then a talk on the 2nd February Ashley Jones about Fraud Prevention.

If any retired male readers in Teignmouth would like to know more about us, please visit our website:

Photo shows Christmas Lunch at Teignmouth Golf Club on 16th December 2021. Pictured 1st left Chairman Brian Laidler with past Chairman, David Jeffery and MC, standing 5th from left, welcoming members and Guests. 


Teignmouth Probus Club Babbage Mathematician / Xmas Lunch 2021