Lot 54
  • 54


2,500 - 3,500 USD
4,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Autograph letter signed to Major Alfred Mordecai, 1 Dorset, Manch[ester] Sq[uare], 1 May 1840.
  • ink, paper
2 pp on single sheet (122 x 99 mm) signed ("C. Babbage"), crease where previously folded. Docketed by Mordecai "Chs Babbage a great mathematician, inventor of the 'Calculating Engine' etc."

Catalogue Note

AN INVITATION FROM "THE FATHER OF COMPUTING" TO ONE OF HIS FAMED SALONS. In part: "I hope I may be fortunate in finding you disengaged in the evening of the 9th May. I believe you have another friend who accompanied you from America. Pray do avail on him to accompany you..."

Charles Babbage, often referred to as the "Father of Computing," is credited with inventing the first mechanical computer, as well as with originating the concept of a programmable digital computer. Conceived in 1821, his Difference Engine No. 1, based on the mathematical principle of finite differences, and designed to tabulate and calculate polynomial functions, was the first complete design for an automatic calculating engine. His Analytical Engine, conceived in 1834, was a much more ambitious general-purpose programmable computing engine. 

Babbage's salons were the hottest social event in London, and luminaries such as Charles Darwin, Michael Faraday, and Charles Dickens were regular attendees. It was at one of these salons that Babbage met Ada Lovelace, the brilliant mathematician and daughter of Lord Byron. He showed her his plans for his "difference machine," and a life-long friendship and collaboration ensued—Lovelace's creation of the very first computer code being just one result.

For Major Mordecai, an American who made major contributions to the development of American military munitions, such an invitation would have been the thrill of a lifetime.