Charles Babbage

Charles Babbage was born in 1791 and died in 1871. He invented the Difference Engine which was a mechanical calculating machine, a forerunner of our modern computers.

Charles was sent to Alphington to recuperate after a violent fever. While he was in the village he decided to make an experimental inquiry into the existence of ghosts and devils. He gathered as much information as he could from the other boys that attended his school. After a lot of consideration he thought that trying to raise the devil would be wicked, but in the end his curiosity won. One evening towards dusk he went up into the deserted garret at his school, closed the door and possibly opened the window. He cut his finger and drew a circle on the floor with his blood. He then placed himself in the middle of the circle and recited the Lord's Prayer backwards; he did this with some trepidation and great fear. He continued to stand in the magic and superstitious circle and looked around with intense anxiety in all directions especially at the window and chimney. Fortunately, nothing happened. Charles was worried that he had sinned, but eventually concluded: 'My sense of justice (whether it be innate or acquired) led me to believe that it was impossible that an almighty and all-merciful God could punish me, a poor little boy, with eternal torments, because I had anxiously taken the only means I knew of to verify the truth or falsehood of the religion I had been taught.'

Another day Charles was suffering from a headache. He left his little friends who were playing sports and disappeared into a shrubbery. He lent his head on his left arm supported by the branch of a thorn tree. After a time he saw a small bright bit of metal lying on the ground. He seized his precious discovery, turned it over examining both sides. He thought he had discovered some valuable treasure and ran to his friends to show them his 'golden coin'. They all became very excited and decided it was a gold coin of great value. They ran off to obtain a second opinion. They were deeply disappointed when the village doctor declared Charles' precious find was a half-dram weight from a pair of medical scales. However, Charles reflected on the fact that the little incident had completely cured his headache.


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