“Babbage and his Gem of all Machinery”

On Friday, April 29, I will be speaking to the computer scientists (and humanists) at NYU/Poly in Brooklyn about Babbage and his engines. Although not specifcally a talk about the book, it will address the revolution planned by Babbage, Herschel, Jones and Whewell at their philosophical breakfasts at Cambridge, because several key elements of this planned revolution came together in Charles Babbage’s decades-long quest to build the first computer: the need to highlight the value of precision in measurement and experiment, the initiation of public funding for science, and the directing of scientific innovation towards the common good.

The title is a quote from Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron. It is something she said to the science writer and mathematician Mary Somerville after a factory visit (a common form of entertainment in those days); seeing the factory’s enormous machines reminded Ada of “Babbage and his gem of all machinery.”

For more information, including an abstract of the talk, see this link.


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About the Author

Laura J. Snyder, Ph.D., is a science historian, philosopher and writer whose most recent book, The Philosophical Breakfast Club: Four Remarkable Friends who Transformed Science and Changed the World, was an Official Selection of the TED Book Club, a Scientific American Notable Book, and winner of the 2011 Royal Institution of Australia Poll for Favorite Science Book. It was also named an "Outstanding Academic Title" in history of science and technology by the American Library Association. Snyder is Professor of Philosophy at St. John's University in New York City and writes frequently about science and ideas for The Wall Street Journal. She is a Fulbright Scholar, a Life Member of Clare Hall College, Cambridge, and Past President of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science.

 She is currently working on a book about how new optical technologies in the 17th century revolutionized not only science, but also art and the rest of culture. Follow Laura Snyder on Twitter and Facebook.

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