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Babbage, Lovelace and Turing


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Computing is widely seen as a triumph of the modern era. Yet many of the core ideas in modern computing were articulated much earlier - in 19th century. This evening lecture identifies a suite of core ideas, traces their historical origins.

Date and Time

18 February 2014 - 19:00-21:30


London, United Kingdom - icon_popup  (See map)


Organised by the London local network.

About this event

 Electronic computing is widely seen as a gift of modernism. However, core ideas in modern computing, many of which are directly associated with Alan Turing, can be traced back to the 19th century when they were explicitly articulated in the work of Lovelace and Babbage. Mechanical process, algorithms, computation as systematic method, and the relationship between halting and solvability are part of an unexpected congruence between the prehistory of electronic computing and the modern age. This lecture identifies a suite of core ideas and traces them back to their earliest articulation in Charles Babbage’s designs for his Difference and Analytical Engines. We ask to what extent did Babbage and Lovelace envisage the potential of general purpose computation and specifically the concept of the Universal Turing Machine. Also, whether  Turing was aware of these origins and, if so, the extent (if any) to which he may have been influenced by them.

About the speaker

 Dr. Doron Swade (MBE PhD, MSc, C.Eng, FBCS, CITP) is an engineer, historian, a museum professional and a leading authority on the life and work of computer pioneer Charles Babbage. He masterminded the construction of the first complete Babbage calculating engine to original 19th-century designs. He was formerly Assistant Director & Head of Collections at the Science Museum, and before that Senior Curator of Computing. Swade studied physics, electronics engineering, philosophy of science, machine intelligence, and history, at various universities including Cambridge University and University College London. He is currently Visiting Research Fellow Royal Holloway, University of London. He lectures widely and has authored three books (one co-authored) and some eighty scholarly and popular articles on curatorship, museology, and history of computing. He was awarded an MBE in 2009 for Services to the History of Computing.


Evening Lecture: 19:00 for 19:30 start


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