On This Day
1822 – Charles Babbage proposes a difference engine in a paper to the Royal Astronomical Society entitled “Note on the application of machinery to the computation of astronomical and mathematical tables”.
A difference engine is an automatic mechanical calculator designed to tabulate polynomial functions. The name derives from the method of divided differences, a way to interpolate or tabulate functions by using a small set of polynomial coefficients. Most mathematical functions commonly used by engineers, scientists and navigators, including logarithmic and trigonometric functions, can be approximated by polynomials, so a difference engine can compute many useful tables of numbers.
The historical difficulty in producing error-free tables by teams of mathematicians and human “computers” spurred Charles Babbage’s desire to build a mechanism to automate the process.
Born On This Day
1900 – Ruth Nanda Anshen, American writer, editor, and philosopher (d. 2003)
Ruth Nanda Anshen (June 14, 1900 – December 2, 2003) was an American philosopher, author and editor. She was the author of several books including The Anatomy of Evil, Biography of An Idea, Morals Equals Manners and The Mystery of Consciousness: A Prescription for Human Survival.
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