b. AD 1791 December 26th - d. AD 1871 October 18th
Though he was born in 1792, the same year that the first French Republic was declared, he conceived the principles of the digital computer. He attended Cambridge to study mathematics, but was by many accounts a passionate man. This lead to his involvement in the formation of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
Among his successful achievements he helped establish the modern Postal Services in England, compiled the first reliable actuarial tables, one of the first speedometers, skeleton keys, locomotive cowcatchers, and an early ophthalmoscope.
However he is best remembered for his quest for accurate logarithms through the creation of a mechanical computer. At the time logarithms had to be hand calculated and the tables were often in error. This annoyed him to no end so in 1823 he approached the British government for funding to create a calculating machine, called the Difference Engine, that could do it accurately to twenty decimals. However he sabotaged himself by not being satisfied. He continually redesigned it and eventually scrapped the project in 1834 in favor of the more ambitious analytical engine. It would be a true computer rather than a calculator, programable in a form of mathematics. He was assisted in the mathematics by Ada Lovelace. Despite spending basically the rest of this life and fortune on the project he never finished.
His design was forgotten until his unpublished notebook was discovered in 1937. Since then the British Museum has constructed a working version of his engine and the printer. It is by most accounts a brilliant piece of engineering, but not practical for the period. The tolerances that could be achieved for metal parts at the time were probably insufficient to build a working device.
Babbage wrote two famous books, Reflections on the Decline of Science in England and On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures.
More information at http://www.ex.ac.uk/BABBAGE/