The Time Tunnel

The beginning_a.

History of an amazing machine

John Napier

1550-1617

M athematician, Scottish theologian who discovered logarithms, his discovery had a tremendous impact on the scientific world. He also created what became known a Napier's "Bones." This is a set of cilinders that solved multiplications problems, he spent much of his life trying to find ways to make arithmetic less laborious. He did not consider his discoveries important and only published them at the urging of his friends.


1617. Napier's bones solved multiplication problems by the addition of numbers in adjacent segments.


Jobst Burgi

1552-1632

S wedish mathematician who is often considered to have independently invented logarithms at the same time as John Napier.


Henry Briggs

1561-1631

E nglish mathematician who spread the use of logarithms and created a modified, easier-to use version now known as base 10. Briggs produced amazingly accurate logarithm charts.


William Oughtred

1575-1660

E nglish mathematician and clergyman who is usually credited with inventing the circular slide rule, which was an improvement on Edmund Gunter's line of numbers. This circular device wasn't particularly accurate, but it was practical and provided simple estimates for using logarithms to multiply two numbers. Oughtred apparently didn't immediately publish his invention because of his disdain for mathematical toys. When one of his students, Richard Delamain, published the invention as his own, Oughtred apparently changed his mind and allowed the invention to be publish, sparking a lifetime of debate between him and Delamain.


Edmund Gunter

1581-1626

B ritish mathematician and astronomer who created various measuring instruments that bear his name, including Gunter's line of numbers. This forerunner of the slide rule eliminated the mental work of addition and the need to look up logarithms on a table.


Wilhelm Schikard

1592-1635

G erman astronomer, linguist, mathematician, and minister who in 1623 is thought to have created the first workable adding machine, which incorporated John Napiers logarithms, could multiply and divide through repeated addition and subtraction, and was able to carry the value when a nine turned over to a zero. There is evidence that the machine was built, but no original drawings or copies of have been found.


Athanasius Kircher

1602-1680

G erman mathematician who, through his correspondence, aided in the spread of John Napier's "Bones" from Europe to China in just a few years. Jesuits sent so many of their lates theories of inventions to Kircher, who was the unofficial information exchange for the Jesuits, that he couldn't keep up with the information. His former pupil, Gaspard Schott, came to help and ended up publishing 11 huge texts.


Gaspard Schott

1608-1666

G erman mathematician who, along with Athanasius Kircher, aided in the spread of John Napier's "Bones" from Europe to China in just a few years. Based upon correspondence sent to Kircher, the unofficial information exchange for the jesuits, Schott produced 11 huge texts of new mathematical methods.


Blaise Pascal

1623-1662

F rench mathematician and philosopher who at age 19 invented a machine that could add and subtrct with the turn of wheels and also carry between digits (for instance, making a nine turn over a zero). Because workmen weren't used to building such delicate equipment, Pascal had to train himself as a mechanic before he could build the machine. He probably was inspired to create it by watching his tax collector father add columns of digits. Later in life, Pascal became religious and philosophical and abandoned math and science.


1642. Blaise Pascal's adding machine performed arithmetic when linked dials were turned.


Samuel Moreland

1625-1695

E nglish mathematician who invented three different adding machines. A simple but reliable one with no carrying mechanism, a mechanical version of John Napier's "Bones," and what's known as a trigonometrical calculating machine.


Gottfried Wilheim Leibniz

1646-1716

G erman who invented the first machine tha could easily add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Thes mechanical muntiplier, created to help astronomers, could "carry" between unit positions. Leibniz also advocated the binary system, now a foundation of computing and was one of the inventors of calculus. He is widely known for his work in philosophy too.


1673. Leibniz's calculator made possible faster multiplication and division.


Joseph-Marie Jacquard

1752-1834

F rench Weaver who built a practical, fully automated loom programmed by punched cards. The system is believed to have inspired Charles Babbage to see a way to store programs, and Herman Hollerith used the idea to tabulate data. The looms are still in use.


1804. The Jackard loom first used punched card to control machine processes.


Charles Babbage

1791-1871


1834. Babbage's analitical engine was intended to perform a wide range of
computing tasks from a sequence of instructions.

E nglish mathematician who is generally considerd to have conceptualized the modern computer a century before technology allowed it to be built. He conceptualized the difference engine, which would have compute lengthy scietific tables, but money, labor, and health problems prevented its completion, however, some have said it was never finished simply because Babbage kept tinkering with it. The analitical engine, a more ambitious plan, would have done a wide range of calculating tasks. With it, Babbage recognized the need for an input device, memory, a central processing unit, and an output device, and for this he is sometimes known as the "father of computing." His social set included naturalist Charles Darwin, novelist Charles Dickens, and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and he invented (among other things) a sail-powered train, the standard railroad gauge, uniform postal rates, the first air conditioning in London (for his house), the speedometer, and the cow-catcher for locomotives. In his spare time, he waged war against street musicians, particulary organ grinders, who eventually went out of their way to "serenade" him, even as he lay on his deathbed.

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