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B r e a k fa s T c l u B
T i m el i n e
Laura J. Snyder
August 12, 1790 Richard Jones born.
December 26, 1791 Charles Babbage born.
March 7, 1792 John Herschel born.
May 24, 1794 William Whewell born.
1812-1813 “Philosophical Breakfasts” held in Herschel’s
rooms at Cambridge.
Spring 1813 –1819 Herschel discovers the “hypo” (hyposulphite of soda) later used to ‘fix’ photographs when that technology is invented by William Henry Fox Talbot in the 1830s.
December 1821 Babbage first thinks of inventing an “arithmetical engine” and begins work on his Difference Engine no. 1.
1829–1831 Whewell invents mathematical economics in a
series of papers attacking David Ricardo’s economic theories.
1831 Herschel publishes Preliminary Discourse on the Study
of Natural Philosophy, which would teach scientific method
to Darwin. Jones publishes An Essay on the Distribution of
Wealth, an attack on David Ricardo’s economic theory and
September 1831 The British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) is created by Babbage and David
Brewster and devised to showcase Herschel, Whewell, and
Babbage’s view of science.
1833 Whewell publishes his Bridgewater Treatise on the relation between science and religion, arguing that truth in one
realm cannot conflict with truth in the other.
June 1833 At the BAAS meeting in Cambridge, Whewell invents the word “scientist.” Whewell and Jones create the “statistical section” of the society, introducing statistical techniques
of astronomy into the new “social sciences.”
November 1833 Herschel and his family
sail to South Africa. Over the next four
years Herschel will map the skies of the
Summer 1834 Babbage invents his Analytical
Engine, the first mechanical device with all the functions and
capabilities of a modern-day computer. This device could be
programmed using punch cards like those devised for the
June 1835 Whewell organizes the first international recording
of tidal data.
June 1836 Tithe Bill passes Parliament; Jones appointed
to the Commission overseeing the converting of tithe (tax)
payments from produce to money, which requires the first
extensive mapping of rural England and Wales.
Mid–March 1837 Darwin first voices the possibility that
“one species does change into another” after attending one of
Babbage’s Saturday “soirées,” where he witnessed Babbage’s
demonstration with the Difference Engine model.
January–March 1839 Herschel coins the terms “photography” for Talbot’s new invention and devises the method for
fixing photographs. Herschel introduces the method in a paper
read to the Royal Society.
August 1840 Herschel produces the first color photograph
of the light spectrum. Babbage publicizes his Analytical Engine
at a conference of Italian scientists in Turin, where he meets
Luigi Menabrea, a mathematician and army engineer.
B r e a k fa s T c l u B
T i m eli n e
Laura J. Snyder
1841 Whewell publishes Philosophy of the Inductive
Sciences, a book which indicated to Darwin the best way to
prove his theory of evolution.
November 1842 British government ends funding to
Babbage after granting approximately $2.5 million in today’s
currency for the Difference Engine.
August 1843 Byron’s daughter, Ada Lovelace, translates
Menabrea’s article about the Analytical Engine. It’s published
along with the first computer program which she co-wrote
October 1846 Babbage applies what he learned working
on the Analytical Engine to invent the Difference Engine
no. 2. In 1991 it became the only one of his Engines to be
fully constructed when it was built at the Science Museum of
March 1847 Herschel finishes calculating all the astronomical
data from his expedition to South Africa, and publishes it.
1848 Whewell introduces the natural Sciences Tripos Exam
at Cambridge, allowing students to graduate with a degree in
science; it took another twelve years before he convinced the
University that this exam was sufficient for graduating.
November 1850 Herschel appointed Master of the Mint.
1853 Whewell publishes Of the Plurality of Worlds, arguing
against the existence of intelligent life on other planets.
January 26, 1855 Richard Jones dies at age sixty-four.
1855 Babbage breaks the “indecipherable” Vigenère cipher;
he returns to work on the Analytical Engine, perhaps with the
idea of building a code-breaking machine.
March 6, 1866 Whewell dies at age seventy-one.
May 11, 1871 Herschel dies at age seventy-nine.
October 18, 1871 Babbage dies at age seventy-nine.
The Philsophical Breakfast Club
by Laura J. Snyder
Available as a hardcover and ebook wherever
books are sold.