The Analytical Engine


Passages from the Life of a Philosopher

F.R.S., F.R.S.E., F.R.A.S., F. STAT. S., HON. M.R.I.A., M.C.P.S.,

Picture of Charles Babbage




Man wrongs, and Time avenges.
BYRONThe Prophecy of Dante

Built Workshops for constructing the Analytical Engine—Difficulties about carrying the Tens—Unexpectedly solved—Application of the Jacquard Principle—Treatment of Tables—Probable Time required for Arithmetical Operations—Conditions it must fulfil—Unlimited in Number of Figures, or in extent of Analytical Operations—The Author invited to Turin in 1840—Meetings for Discussion—Plana, Menabrea, MacCullagh, Mossotti—Difficulty proposed by the latter—Observations on the Errata of Astronomical Tables—Suggestions for a Reform of Analytical Signs.

The circular arrangement of the axes of the Difference Engine round large central wheels led to the most extended prospects. The whole of arithmetic now appeared within the grasp of mechanism. A vague glimpse even of an Analytical Engine at length opened out, and I pursued with enthusiasm the shadowy vision. The drawings and the experiments were of the most costly kind. Draftsmen of the highest order were necessary to economize the labour of my own head; whilst skilled workmen were required to execute the experimental machinery to which I was obliged constantly to have recourse.

In order to carry out my pursuits successfully, I had purchased a house with above a quarter of an acre of ground in a very quiet locality. My coach-house was now converted into a forge and a foundry, whilst my stables were transformed into a workshop. I built other extensive workshops myself, and had a fire-proof building for my drawings and draftsmen. Having myself worked with a variety of tools, and having studied the art of constructing each of them, I at length laid it down as a principle—that, except in rare cases, I would never do anything myself if I could afford to hire another person who could do it for me.

The complicated relations which then arose amongst the various parts of the machinery would have baffled the most tenacious memory. I overcame that difficulty by improving and extending a language of signs, the Mechanical Notation, which in 1826 I had explained in a paper printed in the “Phil. Trans.” By such means I succeeded in mastering trains of investigation so vast in extent that no length of years ever allotted to one individual could otherwise have enabled me to control. By the aid of the Mechanical Notation, the Analytical Engine became a reality: for it became susceptible of demonstration.

Such works could not be carried on without great expenditure. The fluctuations in the demand and supply of skilled labour were considerable. The railroad mania withdrew from other pursuits the most intellectual and skilful draftsmen. One who had for some years been my chief assistant was tempted by an offer so advantageous that in justice to his own family he could scarcely have declined it. Under these circumstances I took into consideration the plan of advancing his salary to one guinea per day. Whilst this was in abeyance, I consulted my venerable surviving parent. When I had fully explained the circumstances, my excellent mother replied: “My dear son, you have advanced far in the accomplishment of a great object, which is worthy of your ambition. You are capable of completing it. My advice is—pursue it, even if it should oblige you to live on bread and cheese.”

This advice entirely accorded with my own feelings. I therefore retained my chief assistant at his advanced salary.

The most important part of the Analytical Engine was undoubtedly the mechanical method of carrying the tens. On this I laboured incessantly, each succeeding improvement advancing me a step or two. The difficulty did not consist so much in the more or less complexity of the contrivance as in the reduction of the time required to effect the carriage. Twenty or thirty different plans and modifications had been drawn. At last I came to the conclusion that I had exhausted the principle of successive carriage. I concluded also that nothing but teaching the Engine to foresee and then to act upon that foresight could ever lead me to the object I desired, namely, to make the whole of any unlimited number of carriages in one unit of time. One morning, after I had spent many hours in the drawing-office in endeavouring to improve the system of successive carriages, I mentioned these views to my chief assistant, and added that I should retire to my library, and endeavour to work out the new principle. He gently expressed a doubt whether the plan was possible, to which I replied that, not being able to prove its impossibility, I should follow out a slight glimmering of light which I thought I perceived.

After about three hours' examination, I returned to the drawing-office with much more definite ideas upon the subject. I had discovered a principle that proved the possibility, and I had contrived mechanism which, I thought, would accomplish my object.

I now commenced the explanation of my views, which I soon found were but little understood by my assistant; nor was this surprising, since in the course of my own attempt at explanation, I found several defects in my plan, and was also led by his questions to perceive others. All these I removed one after another, and ultimately terminated at a late hour my morning's work with the conviction that anticipating carriage was not only within my power, but that I had devised one mechanism at least by which it might be accomplished.

Many years after, my assistant, on his return from a long residence abroad, called upon me, and we talked over the progress of the Analytical Engine. I referred back to the day on which I had made that most important step, and asked him if he recollected it. His reply was that he perfectly remembered the circumstance; for that on retiring to my library, he seriously thought that my intellect was beginning to become deranged. The reader may perhaps be curious to know how I spent the rest of that remarkable day.

After working, as I constantly did, for ten or eleven hours a day, I had arrived at this satisfactory conclusion, and was revising the rough sketches of the new contrivance, when my servant entered the drawing-office, and announced that it was seven o'clock—that I dined in Park Lane—and that it was time to dress. I usually arrived at the house of my friend about a quarter of an hour before the appointed time, in order that we might have a short conversation on subjects on which we were both much interested. Having mentioned my recent success, in which my host thoroughly sympathized, I remarked that it had produced an exhilaration of the spirits which not even his excellent champagne could rival. Having enjoyed the society of Hallam, of Rogers, and of some few others of that delightful circle, I retired, and joined one or perhaps two much more extensive reunions. Having thus forgotten science, and enjoyed society for four or five hours, I returned home. About one o'clock I was asleep in my bed, and thus continued for the next five hours.

This new and rapid system of carrying the tens when two numbers are added together, reduced the actual time of the addition of any number of digits, however large, to nine units of time for the addition, and one unit for the carriage. Thus in ten's units of time, any two numbers, however large, might be added together. A few more units of time, perhaps five or six, were required for making the requisite previous arrangements.

Having thus advanced as nearly as seemed possible to the minimum of time requisite for arithmetical operations, I felt renewed power and increased energy to pursue the far higher object I had in view.

To describe the successive improvements of the Analytical Engine would require many volumes. I only propose here to indicate a few of its more important functions, and to give to those whose minds are duly prepared for it some information which will remove those vague notions of wonder, and even of its impossibility, with which it is surrounded in the minds of some of the most enlightened.

To those who are acquainted with the principles of the Jacquard loom, and who are also familiar with analytical formulæ, a general idea of the means by which the Engine executes its operations may be obtained without much difficulty. In the Exhibition of 1862 there were many splendid examples of such looms.

It is known as a fact that the Jacquard loom is capable of weaving any design which the imagination of man may conceive. It is also the constant practice for skilled artists to be employed by manufacturers in designing patterns. These patterns are then sent to a peculiar artist, who, by means of a certain machine, punches holes in a set of pasteboard cards in such a manner that when those cards are placed in a Jacquard loom, it will then weave upon its produce the exact pattern designed by the artist.

Now the manufacturer may use, for the warp and weft of his work, threads which are all of the same colour; let us suppose them to be unbleached or white threads. In this case the cloth will be woven all of one colour; but there will be a damask pattern upon it such as the artist designed.

But the manufacturer might use the same cards, and put into the warp threads of any other colour. Every thread might even be of a different colour, or of a different shade of colour; but in all these cases the form of the pattern will be precisely the same—the colours only will differ.

The analogy of the Analytical Engine with this well-known process is nearly perfect.

The Analytical Engine consists of two parts:—

1st. The store in which all the variables to be operated upon, as well as all those quantities which have arisen from the result of other operations, are placed.

2nd. The mill into which the quantities about to be operated upon are always brought.

Every formula which the Analytical Engine can be required to compute consists of certain algebraical operations to be performed upon given letters, and of certain other modifications depending on the numerical value assigned to those letters.

There are therefore two sets of cards, the first to direct the nature of the operations to be performed—these are called operation cards: the other to direct the particular variables on which those cards are required to operate—these latter are called variable cards. Now the symbol of each variable or constant, is placed at the top of a column capable of containing any required number of digits.

Under this arrangement, when any formula is required to be computed, a set of operation cards must be strung together, which contain the series of operations in the order in which they occur. Another set of cards must then be strung together, to call in the variables into the mill, the order in which they are required to be acted upon. Each operation card will require three other cards, two to represent the variables and constants and their numerical values upon which the previous operation card is to act, and one to indicate the variable on which the arithmetical result of this operation is to be placed.

But each variable has below it, on the same axis, a certain number of figure-wheels marked on their edges with the ten digits: upon these any number the machine is capable of holding can be placed. Whenever variables are ordered into the mill, these figures will be brought in, and the operation indicated by the preceding card will be performed upon them. The result of this operation will then be replaced in the store.

The Analytical Engine is therefore a machine of the most general nature. Whatever formula it is required to develop, the law of its development must be communicated to it by two sets of cards. When these have been placed, the engine is special for that particular formula. The numerical value of its constants must then be put on the columns of wheels below them, and on setting the Engine in motion it will calculate and print the numerical results of that formula.

Every set of cards made for any formula will at any future time recalculate that formula with whatever constants may be required.

Thus the Analytical Engine will possess a library of its own. Every set of cards once made will at any future time reproduce the calculations for which it was first arranged. The numerical value of its constants may then be inserted.

It is perhaps difficult to apprehend these descriptions without a familiarity both with analytical forms and mechanical structures. I will now, therefore, confine myself to the mathematical view of the Analytical Engine, and illustrate by example some of its supposed difficulties.

An excellent friend of mine, the late Professor MacCullagh, of Dublin, was discussing with me, at breakfast, the various powers of the Analytical Engine. After a long conversation on the subject, he inquired what the machine could do if, in the midst of algebraic operations, it was required to perform logarithmic or trigonometric operations.

My answer was, that whenever the Analytical Engine should exist, all the developments of formula would be directed by this condition—that the machine should be able to compute their numerical value in the shortest possible time. I then added that if this answer were not satisfactory, I had provided means by which, with equal accuracy, it might compute by logarithmic or other Tables.

I explained that the Tables to be used must, of course, be computed and punched on cards by the machine, in which case they would undoubtedly be correct. I then added that when the machine wanted a tabular number, say the logarithm of a given number, that it would ring a bell and then stop itself. On this, the attendant would look at a certain part of the machine, and find that it wanted the logarithm of a given number, say of 2303. The attendant would then go to the drawer containing the pasteboard cards representing its table of logarithms. From amongst these he would take the required logarithmic card, and place it in the machine. Upon this the engine would first ascertain whether the assistant had or had not given him the correct logarithm of the number; if so, it would use it and continue its work. But if the engine found the attendant had given him a wrong logarithm, it would then ring a louder bell, and stop itself. On the attendant again examining the engine, he would observe the words, “Wrong tabular number,” and then discover that he really had given the wrong logarithm, and of course he would have to replace it by the right one.

Upon this, Professor MacCullagh naturally asked why, if the machine could tell whether the logarithm was the right one, it should have asked the attendant at all? I told him that the means employed were so ridiculously simple that I would not at that moment explain them; but that if he would come again in the course of a few days, I should be ready to explain it. Three or four days after, Bessel and Jacobi, who had just arrived in England, were sitting with me, inquiring about the Analytical Engine, when fortunately my friend MacCullagh was announced. The meeting was equally agreeable to us all, and we continued our conversation. After some time Bessel put to me the very same question which MacCullagh had previously asked. On this Jacobi remarked that he, too, was about to make the same inquiry when Bessel had asked the question. I then explained to them the following very simple means by which that verification was accomplished.

Besides the sets of cards which direct the nature of the operations to be performed, and the variables or constants which are to be operated upon, there is another class of cards called number cards. These are much less general in their uses than the others, although they are necessarily of much larger size.

Any number which the Analytical Engine is capable of using or of producing can, if required, be expressed by a card with certain holes in it: thus—

Number   Table

2 3 0 3   3 6 2 2 9 3 9

* * 0 *   * * * * * * *
* * 0 *   * * * * * * *
0 * 0 *   * * 0 0 * * *
0 0 0 0   0 * 0 0 * 0 *
0 0 0 0   0 * 0 0 * 0 *
0 0 0 0   0 0 0 0 * 0 *
0 0 0 0   0 0 0 0 * 0 *
0 0 0 0   0 0 0 0 * 0 *

The above card contains eleven vertical rows for holes, each row having nine or any less number of holes. In this example the tabular number is 3 6 2 2 9 3 9, whilst its number in the order of the table is 2 3 0 3. In fact, the former number is the logarithm of the latter.

The Analytical Engine will contain,

1st. Apparatus for printing on paper, one, or, if required, two copies of its results.
2nd. Means for producing a stereotype mould of the tables or results it computes.
3rd. Mechanism for punching on blank pasteboard cards or metal plates the numerical results of any of its computations.

Of course the Engine will compute all the Tables which it may itself be required to use. These cards will therefore be entirely free from error. Now when the Engine requires a tabular number, it will stop, ring a bell, and ask for such number. In the case we have assumed, it asks for the logarithm of 2 3 0 3.

When the attendant has placed a tabular card in the Engine, the first step taken by it will be to verify the number of the card given it by subtracting its number from 2 3 0 3, the number whose logarithm it asked for. If the remainder is zero, then the engine is certain that the logarithm must be the right one, since it was computed and punched by itself.

Thus the Analytical Engine first computes and punches on cards its own tabular numbers. These are brought to it by its attendant when demanded. But the Engine itself takes care that the right card is brought to it by verifying the number of that card by the number of the card which it demanded. The Engine will always reject a wrong card by continually ringing a loud bell and stopping itself until supplied with the precise intellectual food it demands.

It will be an interesting question, which time only can solve, to know whether such tables of cards will ever be required for the Engine. Tables are used for saving the time of continually computing individual numbers. But the computations to be made by the Engine are so rapid that it seems most probable that it will make shorter work by computing directly from proper formulæ than by having recourse even to its own Tables.

The Analytical Engine I propose will have the power of expressing every number it uses to fifty places of figures. It will multiply any two such numbers together, and then, if required, will divide the product of one hundred figures by number of fifty places of figures.

Supposing the velocity of the moving parts of the Engine to be not greater than forty feet per minute, I have no doubt that

Sixty additions or subtractions may be completed and printed in one minute.

One multiplication of two numbers, each of fifty figures, in one minute.

One division of a number having 100 places of figures by another of 50 in one minute.

In the various sets of drawings of the modifications of the mechanical structure of the Analytical Engines, already numbering upwards of thirty, two great principles were embodied to an unlimited extent.

1st. The entire control over arithmetical operations, however large, and whatever might be the number of their digits.

2nd. The entire control over the combinations of algebraic symbols, however lengthened those processes may be required. The possibility of fulfilling these two conditions might reasonably be doubted by the most accomplished mathematician as well as by the most ingenious mechanician.

The difficulties which naturally occur to those capable of examining the question, as far as they relate to arithmetic, are these,—

(a). The number of digits in each constant inserted in the Engine must be without limit.
(b). The number of constants to be inserted in the Engine must also be without limit.
(c). The number of operations necessary for arithmetic is only four, but these four may be repeated an unlimited number of times.
(d). These operations may occur in any order, or follow an unlimited number of laws.

The following conditions relate to the algebraic portion of the Analytical Engine:—

(e). The number of literal constants must be unlimited.
(f). The number of variables must be without limit.
(g). The combinations of the algebraic signs must be unlimited.
(h). The number of functions to be employed must be without limit.

This enumeration includes eight conditions, each of which is absolutely unlimited as to the number of its combinations.

Now it is obvious that no finite machine can include infinity. It is also certain that no question necessarily involving infinity can ever be converted into any other in which the idea of infinity under some shape or other does not enter.

It is impossible to construct machinery occupying unlimited space; but it is possible to construct finite machinery, and to use it through unlimited time. It is this substitution of the infinity of time for the infinity of space which I have made use of, to limit the size of the engine and yet to retain its unlimited power.

(a). I shall now proceed briefly to point out the means by which I have effected this change.

Since every calculating machine must be constructed for the calculation of a definite number of figures, the first datum must be to fix upon that number. In order to be somewhat in advance of the greatest number that may ever be required, I chose fifty places of figures as the standard for the Analytical Engine. The intention being that in such a machine two numbers, each of fifty places of figures, might be multiplied together and the resultant product of one hundred places might then be divided by another number of fifty places. It seems to me probable that a long period must elapse before the demands of science will exceed this limit. To this it may be added that the addition and subtraction of numbers in an engine constructed for n places of figures would be equally rapid whether n were equal to five or five thousand digits. With respect to multiplication and division, the time required is greater:—

Thus if a.1050+b and a'.1050+b' are two numbers each of less than a hundred places of figures, then each can be expressed upon two columns of fifty figures, and a, b, a', b' are each less than fifty places of figures: they can therefore be added and subtracted upon any column holding fifty places of figures.

The product of two such numbers is—

aa' 10100 + (ab' + a'b) 1050 + bb'.

This expression contains four pairs of factors, aa', ab', a'b, bb', each factor of which has less than fifty places of figures. Each multiplication can therefore be executed in the Engine. The time, however, of multiplying two numbers, each consisting of any number of digits between fifty and one hundred, will be nearly four times as long as that of two such numbers of less than fifty places of figures.

The same reasoning will show that if the numbers of digits of each factor are between one hundred and one hundred and fifty, then the time required for the operation will be nearly nine times that of a pair of factors having only fifty digits.

Thus it appears that whatever may be the number of digits the Analytical Engine is capable of holding, if it is required to make all the computations with k times that number of digits, then it can be executed by the same Engine, but in an amount of time equal to k² times the former. Hence the condition (a), or the unlimited number of digits contained in each constant employed, is fulfilled.

It must, however, be admitted that this advantage is gained at the expense of diminishing the number of the constants the Engine can hold. An engine of fifty digits, when used as one of a hundred digits, can only contain half the number of variables. An engine containing m columns, each holding n digits, if used for computations requiring kn digits, can only hold m/k constants or variables.

(b). The next step is therefore to prove (b), viz.: to show that a finite engine can be used as if it contained an unlimited number of constants. The method of punching cards for tabular numbers has already been alluded to. Each Analytical Engine will contain one or more apparatus for printing any numbers put into it, and also an apparatus for punching on pasteboard cards the holes corresponding to those numbers. At another part of the machine a series of number cards, resembling those of Jacquard, but delivered to and computed by the machine itself, can be placed. These can be called for by the Engine itself in any order in which they may be placed, or according to any law the Engine may be directed to use. Hence the condition (b) is fulfilled, namely: an unlimited number of constants can be inserted in the machine in an unlimited time.

I propose in the Engine I am constructing to have places for only a thousand constants, because I think it will be more than sufficient. But if it were required to have ten, or even a hundred times that number, it would be quite possible to make it, such is the simplicity of its structure of that portion of the Engine.

(c). The next stage in the arithmetic is the number of times the four processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division can be repeated. It is obvious that four different cards thus punched

+ × ÷
* * * 0
* * 0 *
* 0 * *
0 * * *

would give the orders for the four rules of arithmetic.

Now there is no limit to the number of such cards which may be strung together according to the nature of the operations required. Consequently the condition (c) is fulfilled.

(d). The fourth arithmetical condition (d), that the order of succession in which these operations can be varied, is itself unlimited, follows as a matter of course.

The four remaining conditions which must be fulfilled, in order to render the Analytical Engine as general as the science of which it is the powerful executive, relate to algebraic quantities with which it operates.

The thousand columns, each capable of holding any number of less than fifty-one places of figures, may each represent a constant or a variable quantity. These quantities I have called by the comprehensive title of variables, and have denoted them by Vn, with an index below. In the machine I have designed, n may vary from 0 to 999. But after any one or more columns have been used for variables, if those variables are not required afterwards, they may be printed upon paper, and the columns themselves again used for other variables. In such cases the variables must have a new index; thus, mVn. I propose to make m vary from 0 to 99. If more variables are required, these may be supplied by Variable Cards, which may follow each other in unlimited succession. Each card will cause its symbol to be printed with its proper indices.

For the sake of uniformity, I have used V with as many indices as may be required throughout the Engine. This, however, does not prevent the printed result of a development from being represented by any letters which may be thought to be more convenient. In that part in which the results are printed, type of any form may be used, according to the taste of the proposer of the question.

It thus appears that the two conditions, (e) and (f), which require that the number of constants and of variables should be unlimited, are both fulfilled.

The condition (g) requiring that the number of combinations of the four algebraic signs shall be unlimited, is easily fulfilled by placing them on cards in any order of succession the problem may require.

The last condition (h), namely, that the number of functions to be employed must be without limit, might seem at first sight to be difficult to fulfil. But when it is considered that any function of any number of operations performed upon any variables is but a combination of the four simple signs of operation with various quantities, it becomes apparent that any function whatever may be represented by two groups of cards, the first being signs of operation, placed in the order in which they succeed each other, and the second group of cards representing the variables and constants placed in the order of succession in which they are acted upon by the former.

Thus it appears that the whole of the conditions which enable a finite machine to make calculations of unlimited extent are fulfilled in the Analytical Engine. The means I have adopted are uniform. I have converted the infinity of space, which was required by the conditions of the problem, into the infinity of time. The means I have employed are in daily use in the art of weaving patterns. It is accomplished by systems of cards punched with various holes strung together to any extent which rnay be demanded. Two large boxes, the one empty and the other filled with perforated cards, are placed before and behind a polygonal prism, which revolves at intervals upon its axis, and advances through a short space, after which it immediately returns.

A card passes over the prism just before each stroke of the shuttle; the cards that have passed hang down until they reach the empty box placed to receive them, into which they arrange themselves one over the other. When the box is full, another empty box is placed to receive the coming cards, and a new full box on the opposite side replaces the one just emptied. As the suspended cards on the entering side are exactly equal to those on the side at which the others are delivered, they are perfectly balanced, so that whether the formulæ to be computed be excessively complicated or very simple, the force to be exerted always remains nearly the same.

In 1840 I received from my friend M. Plana a letter pressing me strongly to visit Turin at the then approaching meeting of Italian philosophers. In that letter M. Plana stated that he had inquired anxiously of many of my countrymen about the power and mechanism of the Analytical Engine. He remarked that from all the information he could collect the case seemed to stand thus:—

“Hitherto the legislative department of our analysis has been all powerful—the executive all feeble.

“Your engine seems to give us the same control over the executive which we have hitherto only possessed over the legislative department.”

Considering the exceedingly limited information which could have reached my friend respecting the Analytical Engine, I was equally surprised and delighted at his exact prevision of its powers. Even at the present moment I could not express more clearly, and in fewer terms, its real object. I collected together such of my models, drawings, and notations as I conceived to be best adapted to give an insight into the principles and mode of operating of the Analytical Engine. On mentioning my intention to my excellent friend the late Professor MacCullagh, he resolved to give up a trip to the Tyrol, and join me at Turin.

We met at Turin at the appointed time, and as soon as the first bustle of the meeting had a little abated, I had the great pleasure of receiving at my own apartments, for several mornings, Messrs. Plana, Menabrea, Mossotti, MacCullagh, Plantamour, and others of the most eminent geometers and engineers of Italy.

Around the room were hung the formula, the drawings, notations, and other illustrations which I had brought with me. I began on the first day to give a short outline of the idea. My friends asked from time to time further explanations of parts I had not made sufficiently clear. M. Plana had at first proposed to make notes, in order to write an outline of the principles of the engine. But his own laborious pursuits induced him to give up this plan, and to transfer the task to a younger friend of his, M. Menabrea, who had already established his reputation as a profound analyst.

These discussions were of great value to me in several ways. I was thus obliged to put into language the various views I had taken, and I observed the effect of my explanations on different minds. My own ideas became clearer, and I profited by many of the remarks made by my highly-gifted friends.

One day Mossotti, who had been unavoidably absent from the previous meeting, when a question of great importance had been discussed, again joined the party. Well aware of the acuteness and rapidity of my friend's intellect, I asked my other friends to allow me five minutes to convey to Professor Mossotti the substance of the preceding sitting. After putting a few questions to Mossotti himself, he placed before me distinctly his greatest difficulty.

He remarked that he was now quite ready to admit the power of mechanism over numerical, and even over algebraical relations, to any extent. But he added that he had no conception how the machine could perform the act of judgment sometimes required during an analytical inquiry, when two or more different courses presented themselves, especially as the proper course to be adopted could not be known in many cases until all the previous portion had been gone through.

I then inquired whether the solution of a numerical equation of any degree by the usual, but very tedious proceeding of approximation would be a type of the difficulty to be explained. He at once admitted that it would be a very eminent one.

For the sake of perspicuity and brevity I shall confine my present explanation to possible roots.

I then mentioned the successive stages:—

Number of Operation Cards used

1 a. Ascertain the number of possible roots by applying Sturm's theorem to the coefficients.
2 b. Find a number greater than the greatest root.
3 c. Substitute the powers of ten (commencing with that next greater than the greatest root, and diminishing the powers by unity at each step) for the value of x in the given equation.

Continue this until the sign of the resulting number changes from positive to negative.

The index of the last power of ten (call it n), which is positive, expresses the number of digits in that part of the root which consists of whole numbers. Call this index n + 1.

4 d. Substitute successively for x in the original equation 0×10n, 1×10n, 2×10n, 3×10n, . . . . 9×10n until a change of sign occurs in the result. The digit previously substituted will be the first figure of the root sought.
5 e. Transform the original equation into another whose roots are less by the number thus found.

The transformed equation will have a real root, the digit, less than 10n.

6 f. Substitute 1×10n-1, 2×10n-1, 3×10n-1, &c., successively for the root of this equation, until a change of sign occurs in the result, as in process 4.

This will give the second figure of the root.

This process of alternately finding a new figure in the root, and then transforming the equation into another (as in process 4 and 5), must be carried on until as many figures as are required, whether whole numbers or decimals, are arrived at.

7 g. The root thus found must now be used to reduce the original equation to one dimension lower.
8 h. This new equation of one dimension lower must now be treated by sections 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, until the new root is found.
9 i. The repetition of sections 7 and 8 must go on until all the roots have been found.

Now it will be observed that Professor Mossotti was quite ready to admit at once that each of these different processes could be performed by the Analytical Machine through the medium of properly-arranged sets of Jacquard cards.

His real difficulty consisted in teaching the engine to know when to change from one set of cards to another, and back again repeatedly, at intervals not known to the person who gave the orders.

The dimensions of the algebraic equation being known, the number of arithmetical processes necessary for Sturm's theorem is consequently known. A set of operation cards can therefore be prepared. These must be accompanied by a corresponding set of variable cards, which will represent the columns in the store, on which the several coefficients of the given equation, and the various combinations required amongst them, are to be placed.

The next stage is to find a number greater than the greatest root of the given equation. There are various courses for arriving at such a number. Any one of these being selected, another set of operation and variable cards can be prepared to execute this operation.

Now, as this second process invariably follows the first, the second set of cards may be attached to the first set, and the engine will pass on from the first to the second process, and again from the second to the third process.

But here a difficulty arises: successive powers of ten are to be substituted for x in the equation, until a certain event happens. A set of cards may be provided to make the substitution of the highest power of ten, and similarly for the others; but on the occurrence of a certain event, namely, the change of a sign from + to −, this stage of the calculation is to terminate.

Now at a very early period of the inquiry I had found it necessary to teach the engine to know when any numbers it might be computing passed through zero or infinity.

The passage through zero can be easily ascertained, thus: Let the continually-decreasing number which is being computed be placed upon a column of wheels in connection with a carrying apparatus. After each process this number will be diminished, until at last a number is subtracted from it which is greater than the number expressed on those wheels.

Thus let it be . 00000,00000,00000,00423
Subtract . . . 00000,00000,00000,00511

Now in every case of a carriage becoming due, a certain lever is transferred from one position to another in the cage next above it.

Consequently in the highest cage of all (say the fiftieth in the Analytical Engine), an arm will be moved or not moved accordingly as the carriages do or do not run up beyond the highest wheel.

This arm can, of course, make any change which has previously been decided upon. In the instance we have been considering it would order the cards to be turned on to the next set.

If we wish to find when any number, which is increasing, exceeds in the number of its digits the number of wheels on the columns of the machine, the same carrying arm can be employed. Hence any directions may be given which the circumstances require.

It will be remarked that this does not actually prove, even in the Analytical Engine of fifty figures, that the number computed has passed through infinity; but only that it has become greater than any number of fifty places of figures.

There are, however, methods by which any machine made for a given number of figures may be made to compute the same formulæ with double or any multiple of its original number. But the nature of this work prevents me from explaining that method.

It may here be remarked that in the process, the cards employed to make the substitutions of the powers of ten are operation cards. They are, therefore, quite independent of the numerical values substituted. Hence the same set of operation cards which order the substitutions 1×10n will, if backed, order the substitution of 2×10n, &c. We may, therefore, avail ourselves of mechanism for backing these cards, and call it into action whenever the circumstances themselves require it.

The explanation of M. Mossotti's difficulty is this:—Mechanical means have been provided for backing or advancing the operation cards to any extent. There exist means of expressing the conditions under which these various processes are required to be called into play. It is not even necessary that two courses only should be possible. Any number of courses may be possible at the same time; and the choice of each may depend upon any number of conditions.

It was during these meetings that my highly valued friend, M. Menabrea, collected the materials for that lucid and admirable description which he subsequently published in the Bibli. Univ. de Genève, t. xli. Oct. 1842.

The elementary principles on which the Analytical Engine rests were thus in the first instance brought before the public by General Menabrea.

Some time after the appearance of his memoir on the subject in the “Bibliothèque Universelle de Genève,” the late Countess of Lovelace informed me that she had translated the memoir of Menabrea. I asked why she had not herself written an original paper on a subject with which she was so intimately acquainted? To this Lady Lovelace replied that the thought had not occurred to her. I then suggested that she should add some notes to Menabrea's memoir; an idea which was immediately adopted.

We discussed together the various illustrations that might be introduced: I suggested several, but the selection was entirely her own. So also was the algebraic working out of the different problems, except, indeed, that relating to the numbers of Bernoulli, which I had offered to do to save Lady Lovelace the trouble. This she sent back to me for an amendment, having detected a grave mistake which I had made in the process.

The notes of the Countess of Lovelace extend to about three times the length of the original memoir. Their author has entered fully into almost all the very difficult and abstract questions connected with the subject.

These two memoirs taken together furnish, to those who are capable of understanding the reasoning, a complete demonstration—That the whole of the developments and operations of analysis are now capable of being executed by machinery.

There are various methods by which these developments are arrived at:—1. By the aid of the Differential and Integral Calculus. 2. By the Combinatorial Analysis of Hindenburg. 3. By the Calculus of Derivations of Arbogast.

Each of these systems professes to expand any function according to any laws. Theoretically each method may be admitted to be perfect; but practically the time and attention required are, in the greater number of cases, more than the human mind is able to bestow. Consequently, upon several highly interesting questions relative to the Lunar theory, some of the ablest and most indefatigable of existing analysts are at variance.

The Analytical Engine is capable of executing the laws prescribed by each of these methods. At one period I examined the Combinatorial Analysis, and also took some pains to ascertain from several of my German friends, who had had far more experience of it than myself, whether it could be used with greater facility than the Differential system. They seemed to think that it was more readily applicable to all the usual wants of analysis.

I have myself worked with the system of Arbogast, and if I were to decide from my own limited use of the three methods, I should, for the purposes of the Analytical Engine, prefer the Calcul des Derivations.

As soon as an Analytical Engine exists, it will necessarily guide the future course of the science. Whenever any result is sought by its aid, the question will then arise—By what course of calculation can these results be arrived at by the machine in the shortest time?

In the drawings I have prepared I proposed to have a thousand variables, upon each of which any number not having more than fifty figures can be placed. This machine would multiply 50 figures by other 50, and print the product of 100 figures. Or it would divide any number having 100 figures by any other of 50 figures, and print the quotient of 50 figures. Allowing but a moderate velocity for the machine, the time occupied by either of these operations would be about one minute.

The whole of the numerical constants throughout the works of Laplace, Plana, Le Verrier, Hansen, and other eminent men whose indefatigable labours have brought astronomy to its present advanced state, might easily be recomputed. They are but the numerical coefficients of the various terms of functions developed according to certain series. In all cases in which these numerical constants can be calculated by more than one method, it might be desirable to compute them by several processes until frequent practice shall have confirmed our belief in the infallibility of mechanism.

The great importance of having accurate Tables is admitted by all who understand their uses; but the multitude of errors really occurring is comparatively little known. Dr. Lardner, in the “Edinburgh Review,” has made some very instructive remarks on this subject.

I shall mention two within my own experience: these are selected because they occurred in works where neither care nor expense were spared on the part of the Government to insure perfect accuracy. It is, however, but just to the eminent men who presided over the preparation of these works for the press to observe, that the real fault lay not in them but in the nature of things.

In 1828 I lent the Government an original MS. of the table of Logarithmic Sines, Cosines, &c., computed to every second of the quadrant, in order that they might have it compared with Taylor's Logarithms, 4to., 1792, of which they possessed a considerable number of copies. Nineteen errors were thus detected, and a list of these errata was published in the Nautical Almanac for 1832: these may be called

Nineteen errata of the first order . . . . 1832

An error being detected in one of these errata, in the following Nautical Almanac we find an

Erratum of the errata in N. Alm. 1832 . . . . 1833

But in this very erratum of the second order a new mistake was introduced larger than any of the original mistakes. In the year next following there ought to have been found

Erratum in the erratum of the errata in N. Alm. 1832 . 1834

In the “Tables de la Lune,” by M. P. A. Hansen, 4to., 1857, published at the expense of the English Government, under the direction of the Astronomer Royal, is to be found a list of errata amounting to 155. In the 21st of these original errata there have been found three mistakes. These are duly noted in a newly-printed list of errata discovered during computations made with them in the “Nautical Almanac”; so that we now have the errata of an erratum of the original work.

This list of errata from the office of the “Nautical Almanac” is larger than the original list. The total number of errors at present (1862) discovered in Hansen's “Tables of the Moon” amounts to above three hundred and fifty. In making these remarks I have no intention of imputing the slightest blame to the Astronomer Royal, who, like other men, cannot avoid submitting to inevitable fate. The only circumstance which is really extraordinary is that, when it was demonstrated that all tables are capable of being computed by machinery, and even when a machine existed which computed certain tables, that the Astronomer Royal did not become the most enthusiastic supporter of an instrument which could render such invaluable service to his own science.

In the Supplementary Notices of the Astronomical Society, No. 9, vol. xxiii., p. 259, 1863, there occurs a Paper by M. G. de Ponteculant, in which forty-nine numerical coefficients relative to the Longitude, Latitude, and Radius vector of the Moon are given as computed by Plana, Delaunay, and Ponteculant. The computations of Plana and Ponteculant agree in thirteen cases; those of Delaunay and Ponteculant in two; and in the remaining thirty-four cases they all three differ.

I am unwilling to terminate this chapter without reference to another difficulty now arising, which is calculated to impede the progress of Analytical Science. The extension of analysis is so rapid, its domain so unlimited, and so many inquirers are entering into its fields, that a variety of new symbols have been introduced, formed on no common principles. Many of these are merely new ways of expressing well-known functions. Unless some philosophical principles are generally admitted as the basis of all notation, there appears a great probability of introducing the confusion of Babel into the most accurate of all languages.

A few months ago I turned back to a paper in the Philosophical Transactions, 1844, to examine some analytical investigations of great interest by an author who has thought deeply on the subject. It related to the separation of symbols of operation from those of quantity, a question peculiarly interesting to me, since the Analytical Engine contains the embodiment of that method. There was no ready, sufficient and simple mode of distinguishing letters which represented quantity from those which indicated operation. To understand the results the author had arrived at, it became necessary to read the whole Memoir.

Although deeply interested in the subject, I was obliged, with great regret, to give up the attempt; for it not only occupied much time, but placed too great a strain on the memory.

Whenever I am thus perplexed it has often occurred to me that the very simple plan I have adopted in my Mechanical Notation for lettering drawings might be adopted in analysis.

On the geometrical drawings of machinery every piece of matter which represents framework is invariably denoted by an upright letter; whilst all letters indicating moveable parts are marked by inclined letters.

The analogous rule would be—

Let all letters indicating operations or modifications be expressed by upright letters;

Whilst all letters representing quantity should be represented by inclined letters.

The subject of the principles and laws of notation is so important that it is desireable, before it is too late, that the scientific academies of the world should each contribute the results of their own examination and conclusions, and that some congress should assemble to discuss them. Perhaps it might be still better if each academy would draw up its own views, illustrated by examples, and have a sufficient number printed to send to all other academies.


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