When Science meets Entrepreneurialism
This week, back in 1822, British scientist Charles Babbage proposed a ‘Difference Engine’, the forerunner of the modern computer. Today, he is widely regarded as the first computer pioneer.
What strikes me most about his story, is that whilst he is referred to as an academic, scientist and mathematician, he was at heart an entrepreneur and faced many challenges as we do today in business:
PASSION – In his twenties, he became obsessed with calculating machinery, which became his consuming passion for the remainder of his life.
PROBLEM SOLVING – In recognition of the high error rate in the calculation of mathematical tables, Babbage wanted to find a method by which they could be calculated mechanically, removing human sources of error (this later became known as the Difference Engine).
FUNDING – Babbage started to build his Difference Engine in the 1820’s, but was unable to complete it because of a lack of funding. But this didn’t stop him…
PUBLISHED EXPERT – In the 1830s he began developing his Analytical Engine, which was designed to carry out more complicated calculations, but this device was never built. But his book, ‘Economy of Machines and Manufactures’, initiated the field of study known today as operational research.
SURROUNDED WITH LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE – Babbage met Ada Augusta Lovelace (great name!), who was fascinated with both him and his Engines. She became a competent student of mathematics (most unusual for a woman then), and their partnership developed Babbage’s views on Engines as well as earning Ada the title of the world’s first programmer.
SHINY NEW THINGS – Besides the Calculating Engines, Babbage was an ideas man: he wrote a consumer guide to life assurance; pioneered lighthouse signalling, and developed mathematical code breaking.
NETWORKING & ‘MASTERMINDS’ – For twenty-five years Babbage was a leading figure in London society, and his glorious Saturday evening soirées, attended by two or three hundred people, were a meeting place for Europe’s liberal intelligence.
LEGACY – Babbage failed to build a complete machine; because of limitations on Victorian mechanical engineering. BUT his ideas conceived in the 1830’s are some of the startling feats of the 19th century.
I love this story of resilience and determination. What ideas and challenges do you have right now and how do they fit into your end goal?