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On 'Babbage and Kings' and 'How Sausage Was Made': And Now for the Rest of the Story
Winter 1995 (vol. 17 no. 4)
pp. 7-23

A letter dated April 27, 1835 from Charles Babbage to Adolphe Quetelet has been identified as the earliest known reference to the Analytical Engine. The letter was later translated into French and published in the Bulletin of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Brussels in May 1935, and then once again translated back to English to appear in Scientific Memoirs edited by Richard and John E. Taylor in 1843. A 1983 paper by Alfred van Sinderen in the Annals discussed the letter in its 1835 and 1843 reprints, but stated that “the original is not known to exist.” Herman Berg, a part-time student at the University of Michigan, located the original April 1835 letter in the archives of the Royal Academy, and has since claimed some measure of “intellectual ownership” of the letter. The story of his failures to get the reports of his “find” published in the history of computing literature and the lack of acknowledgment of the “find” in other publications led Michael Davis, Illinois Institute of Technology, to publish two other papers charging the editors and authors of the Annals and the editors of the “Works of Charles Babbage” with forms of plagiarism. This report is a response to those charges.

1. H. Berg, “On Locating the Babbage-Quetelet, May 1835,” Annals of the History of Computing, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp. 263-267, 1992.
2. M. Campbell-Kelly, The Collected Works of Charles Babbage. Pickering&Chatto: London, 1991.
3. M. Davis, “Of Babbage and Kings: A Study of a Plagiarism Complaint,” Accountability in Research, Vol. 2, pp. 273-286, 1993.
4. M. Davis, “Righting the Early History of Computing, or How the Sausage Was Made,” Opinion, Mathematical Intelligencer, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 21-28, with a letter from Martin Campbell-Kelly and a response from the author, 1994.
5. N. Metropolis and J. Worlton., “A trilogy of errors in the history of computing,” Annals of the History of Computing, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 49-59, January 1980.
6. A.W. van Sinderen, “Babbage and Bowditch,” Comments, Queries and Debates Department, Annals of the History of Computing, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp. 219-210, 1988.
7. A.W. van Sinderen, “The Printed Papers of Charles Babbage,” Annals of the History of Computing, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 169-185, April 1980.
8. A.W. van Sinderen, “Babbage’s Letter to Quetelet, May 1835,” Annals of the History of Computing, Vol. 5, No. 3, pp. 263-267, July 1983.
9. M.R. Williams, “Babbage and Bowditch: A Transatlantic Connection,” Annals of the History of Computing, Vol. 9, No. 3/4, pp. 283-290, Oct. 1987.

Citation:
J.A.N. Lee, "On 'Babbage and Kings' and 'How Sausage Was Made': And Now for the Rest of the Story," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 7-23, Winter 1995, doi:10.1109/85.477433
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