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rity of the philosophical part of it; and the fiat of the scientific community swayed for once political councils. The British Government, advised by the Royal Society, and a committee formed of the most eminent mechanicians and practical engineers, determined on constructing the projected mechanism at the expense of the nation, to be held as national property.
Notwithstanding the interest with which this invention has been regarded in every part of the world, it has never yet been embodied in a written, much less in a published form. We trust, therefore, that some credit will be conceded to us for having been the first to make the public acquainted with the object, principle, and structure of a piece of machinery, which, though at present unknown (except as to a few of its probable results), must, when completed, produce important effects, not only on the progress of science, but on that of civilisation.
The calculating machinery thus undertaken for the public gratuitously (so far as Mr Babbage is concerned), has now attained a very advanced stage towards completion; and a portion of it has been put together, and performs various calculations;-affording a practical demonstration that the anticipations of those, under whose advice Government has acted, have been well founded.
There are nevertheless many persons who, admitting the great ingenuity of the contrivance, have, notwithstanding, been accustomed to regard it more in the light of a philosophical curiosity, than an instrument for purposes practically useful. This mistake (than which it is not possible to imagine a greater) has arisen mainly from the ignorance which prevails of the extensive utility of those numerical tables which it is the purpose of the engine in question to produce. There are also some persons who, not considering the time requisite to bring any invention of this magnitude to perfection in all its details, incline to consider the delays which have taken place in its progress as presumptions against its practicability. These persons should, however, be fore they arrive at such a conclusion, reflect upon the time which was necessary to bring to perfection engines infinitely inferior in complexity and mechanical difficulty. Let them remember that -not to mention the invention of that machine—the improvements alone introduced into the steam-engine by the celebrated Watt, occupied a period of not less than twenty years of the life of that distinguished person, and involved an expenditure of capital amounting to L.50,000.* The calculating machinery is
* Watt commenced his investigations respecting the steam-engine in
a contrivance new even in its details. Its inventor did not take it up already imperfectly formed, after having received the contributions of human ingenuity exercised upon it for a century or more. It has not, like almost all other great mechanical inventions, been gradually advanced to its present state through a series of failures, through difficulties encountered and overcome by a succession of projectors. It is not an object on which the light of various minds has thus been shed. It is, on the contrary, the production of solitary and individual thought, begun, advanced through each successive stage of improvement, and brought to perfection by one mind. Yet this creation of genius, from its first rude conception to its present state, has cost little more than half the time, and not one-third of the expense, consumed in bringing the steam-engine (previously far advanced in the course of improvement) to that state of comparative perfection in which it was left by Watt. Short as the period of time has been which the inventor has devoted to this enterprise, it has, nevertheless, been demonstrated, to the satisfaction of many scientific men of the first eminence, that the design in all its details, reduced, as it is, to a system of mechanical drawings, is complete; and requires only to be constructed in conformity with those plans, to realize all that its inventor has promised.
With a view to remove and correct erroneous impressions, and at the same time to convert the vague sense of wonder at what seems incomprehensible, with which this project is contemplated by the public in general, into a more rational and edifying sentiment, it is our purpose in the present article,
First, To show the immense importance of any method by which numerical tables, absolutely accurate in every individual copy, may be produced with facility and cheapness. This we shall establish by conveying to the reader some notion of the number and variety of tables published in every country of the world to which civilisation has extended, a large portion of which have been produced at the public expense; by showing also, that they are nevertheless rendered inefficient, to a greater or less extent, by the prevalence of errors in them; that these errors pervade not merely tables produced by individual labour and enterprise, but that they vitiate even those on which national resources have been prodigally expended, and to which the highest mathematical ability, which the most enlightened nations of the world
1763, between which time, and the year 1782 inclusive, he took out several patents for improvements in details. Bolton and Watt had expended the above sum on their improvements before they began to receive any return.
could command, has been unsparingly and systematically directed.
Secondly, To attempt to convey to the reader a general notion of the mathematical principle on which the calculating machinery is founded, and of the manner in which this principle is brought into practical operation, both in the process of calculating and printing. It would be incompatible with the nature of this review, and indeed impossible without the aid of numerous plans, sections, and elevations, to convey clear and precise notions of the details of the means by which the process of reasoning is performed by inanimate matter, and the arbitrary and capricious evolutions of the fingers of typographical compositors are reduced to a system of wheel-work. We are, nevertheless, not without hopes of conveying, even to readers unskilled in mathematics, some satisfactory notions of a general nature on this subject.
Thirdly, To explain the actual state of the machinery at the present time; what progress has been made towards its completion; and what are the probable causes of those delays in its progress, which must be a subject of regret to all friends of science. We shall indicate what appears to us the best and most practicable course to prevent the unnecessary recurrence of such obstructions for the future, and to bring this noble project to a speedy and successful issue.
Viewing the infinite extent and variety of the tables which have been calculated and printed, from the earliest periods of human civilisation to the present time, we feel embarrassed with the difficulties of the task which we have imposed on ourselves;-that of attempting to convey to readers unaccustomed to such speculations, any thing approaching to an adequate idea of them. These tables are connected with the various sciences, with almost every department of the useful arts, with commerce in all its relations; but above all, with Astronomy and Navigation. So important have they been considered, that in many instances large sums have been appropriated by the most enlightened nations in the production of them; and yet so numerous and insurmountable have been the difficulties attending the attainment of this end, that after all, even navigators, putting aside every other department of art and science, have, until very recently, been scantily and imperfectly supplied with the tables indispensably necessary to determine their position at sea.
The first class of tables which naturally present themselves, are those of Multiplication. A great variety of extensive multiplication tables have been published from an early period in different countries; and especially tables of Powers, in which a number is multi
plied by itself successively. In Dodson's Calculator we find a table In 1775, a of multiplication extending as far as 10 times 1000.* still more extensive table was published to 10 times 10,000. The Board of Longitude subsequently employed the late Dr Hutton to calculate and print various numerical tables, and among others, a multiplication table extending as far as 100 times 1000; tables of the squares of numbers, as far as 25,400; tables of cubes, and of the first ten powers of numbers, as far as 100.† In 1814, Professor Barlow, of Woolwich, published, in an octavo volume, the squares, cubes, square roots, cube roots, and reciprocals of all numbers from 1 to 10,000; a table of the first ten powers of all numbers from 1 to 100, and of the fourth and fifth powers of all numbers from 100 to 1000.
Tables of Multiplication to a still greater extent have been published in France. In 1785, was published an octavo volume of tables of the squares, cubes, square roots, and cube roots of all numbers from 1 to 10,000; and similar tables were again published in 1801. In 1817, multiplication tables were published in Paris by Voisin; and similar tables, in two quarto volumes, in 1824, by the French Board of Longitude, extending as far as a thousand times a thousand. A table of squares was published in 1810, in Hanover; in 1812, at Leipzig; in 1825, at Berlin; and in 1827, at Ghent. A table of cubes was published in 1827, at Eisenach; in the same year a similar table at Ghent; and one of the squares of all numbers as far as 10,000, was published in that year, in quarto, at Bonn. The Prussian Government has caused a multiplication table to be calculated and printed, extending as far as 1000 times 1000. Such are a few of the tables of this class which have been published in different countries.
This class of tables may be considered as purely arithmetical, since the results which they express involve no other relations than the arithmetical dependence of abstract numbers upon each other. When numbers, however, are taken in a concrete sense, and are applied to express peculiar modes of quantity,—such as angular, linear, superficial, and solid magnitudes,-a new set of numerical relations arise, and a large number of computations are required.
To express angular magnitude, and the various relations of linear magnitude with which it is connected, involves the consideration of a vast variety of Geometrical and Trigonometrical tables; such as tables of the natural sines, co-sines, tangents, se
*Dodson's Calculator. 4to. London: 1747.
+ Hutton's Tables of Products and Powers. Folio. London: 1781.
cants, co-tangents, &c. &c. ; tables of arcs and angles in terms of the radius; tables for the immediate solution of various cases of triangles, &c. Volumes without number of such tables have been from time to time computed and published. It is not suf ficient, however, for the purposes of computation to tabulate these immediate trigonometrical functions. Their squares* and higher powers, their square roots, and other roots, occur so frequently, that it has been found expedient to compute tables for them, as well as for the same functions of abstract numbers.
The measurement of linear, superficial, and solid magnitudes, in the various forms and modifications in which they are required in the arts, demands another extensive catalogue of numerical tables. The surveyor, the architect, the builder, the carpenter, the miner, the gauger, the naval architect, the engineer, civil and military, all require the aid of peculiar numerical tables, and such have been published in all countries.
The increased expedition and accuracy which was introduced into the art of computation by the invention of Logarithms, greatly enlarged the number of tables previously necessary. To apply the logarithmic method, it was not merely necessary to place in the hands of the computist extensive tables of the logarithms of the natural numbers, but likewise to supply him with tables in which he might find already calculated the logarithms of those arithmetical, trigonometrical, and geometrical functions of numbers, which he has most frequent occasion to use. It would be a circuitous process, when the logarithm of a sine or co-sine of an angle is required, to refer, first to the table of sines, or co-sines, and thence to the table of the logarithms of natural numbers. It was therefore found expedient to compute distinct tables of the logarithms of the sines, co-sines, tangents, &c., as well as of various other functions frequently required, such as sums, differences, &c.
Great as is the extent of the tables we have just enumerated, they bear a very insignificant proportion to those which remain to be mentioned. The above are, for the most part, general in their nature, not belonging particularly to any science or art, There is a much greater variety of tables, whose importance is no way inferior, which are, however, of a more special nature:
* The squares of the sines of angles are extensively used in the calculations connected with the theory of the tides. Not aware that tables of these squares existed, Bouvard, who calculated the tides for Laplace, underwent the labour of calculating the square of each individual sine in every case in which it occurred.