Lovelace and Babbage vs The Economy, Part 3

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Lovelace and Babbage Vs The Economy

To understand this comic, you need to bear in mind that Charles Babbage invented both the cowcatcher, and the form. The form! Charles Babbage stop being so amazing I can’t fit it all in the comic!!

Lovelace and babbage vs the economy

Lovelace and babbage vs the economy

Lovelace and babbage vs the economy

Lovelace and babbage vs the economy

Lovelace and babbage vs the economy

Lovelace and babbage vs the economy

Lovelace and babbage vs the economy

Lovelace and babbage vs the economy

Lovelace and babbage vs the economy

Lovelace and babbage vs the economy

Historical Notes:

The Bank of England has been throwing its weight against out-of-control economic models for a very long time– though not as long as the US government which pretty much started out with a bank bail-out. Here’s a cartoon from 1890 showing the ‘Old Grey Lady’ bailing out some bankers, by Alice-in-Wonderland illustrator John Tenniel. If you can’t read it the caption is, “Old Lady of Threadneedle Street, “You’ve got yourselves in a nice mess with your precious ‘speculation!’ Well– I’ll help you out of it, — for this once!!”

The bank being bailed out there is none other than Barings! which went about another hundred years before before its cataclysmic collapse in 1995, an event from which banking learnt, as usual, precisely nothing.

Sorry if it’s kind of fuzzy, it’s a picture I took on an Important Research Expedition to the pretty nifty Bank of England Museum. Incidentally if you go at the moment you can see not only “Banknotes Come Alive!” (false advertising- they totally don’t) but a whole interactive exhibit on Inflation featuring this gadget after my own heart:

Lovelace’s notion of stimulus infrastructure spending is about 100 years ahead of its time– the true originator is of course John Maynard Keynes. He’s been in the news a lot for some reason.

The railway bubble of the 1840s neatly proves this economic hypothesis.

What else… Babbage’s ‘experimental engine’ is mentioned in his autobiography, although I can’t find any description of it anywhere so I’m going to assume it was insane–CORRECTION- Duh, it’s right there! There is no engine, by his ‘train’ he was referring to the experimental carriage. So, there was no point to this whole episode actually.– Typically, although he designed the first cowcatcher there is no indication that it was ever built. In the fabulous anecdote where the experimental engine appears (it’s only a page.. read it. READ IT!!!), Brunel actually says he will ‘put on all the steam he can command’ (in theory). He can get away with saying cheesy things like that because he’s ISAMBARD KINGDOM BRUNEL, pal. He narrowly missed out on being voted the Greatest Briton to a last-minute Winston Churchill counterattack, to the great resentment of the Brunel Museum. The guys there will helpfully snigger with you about his Wapping Shaft. Don’t tell them I sent you.

Hahaha look at him, he’s all, “Alpha Dog, gentlemen.” The reason this episode took so long is because he didn’t originally appear in it but suddenly I had to draw him for some reason.

I have no idea whether Brunel and Lady Lovelace ever met, although I guess probably they did, as they would have gone to a lot of the same parties assuming Brunel ever did anything but eat, sleep, and engineer. Their relationship in the comic is an allusion to the traditional antipathy between mathematicians and engineers, and in fact this whole episode could just be a really, really long-winded way of telling this joke. If you put an animator in that joke they would say, “Hey, you know what would be funnier…”

Did you know that the whole internet was invented in order to distribute mathematician vs engineer jokes?

Anyways, this concludes my ‘difficult second album’ phase. Lessons learnt: I will never again start a comic without having some notion of how I intend to end it.

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  1. Sisi on August 15, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    Been reading the episode, soooo much fun and Ada is super cool!

  2. Kenya Yvette on December 31, 2012 at 1:35 am

    Good Author,
    I don’t normally send e mails to my freinds about fangirling over history and mathematics, but when I do, I do so in all caps and include the link to your lovely site. Thank you for the nerdgasms. While filling out the application for Yale University it asked me “If I could go back to a single moment in history, when would you go.” In your honor (I sh** you not), I responded “I would return to the moment Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace met and together they would lay the foundations of modern computing.”

    -Kenya Yvette

  3. Ashley on December 10, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    I almost died laughing when Brunel suddenly showed up.

  4. dave on October 17, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    I have never read anything so funny in the last twenty years.
    Please do not stop.

  5. Nicole, of the Forgotten Island on December 5, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    ….OK, I am not crushing on Brunel.

    Not at all.

    ….. er…. well, maybe a little…..

    (hey, in my browser right now I have this in one tab and Passages from the Life of a Philosopher in another, and I’m switching between the two. It’s all good….)

  6. spook on August 1, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    This is brilliant, inspired steampunkery of the highest order, publish and be damned. I’ll buy it!
    Full steam ahead.

  7. E-Kay on April 29, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Wow! I love it. I love this whole series. It keeps me occupied through the duller hours of the day. I totally adore Brunel! I’m going to study Engineering at Brunel University in September. There’s a statue of him on campus, which I fully intend to hang around constantly! Ah … engineering! My ultimate aim is to build myself a CD player (I don’t use iPods) that is fully steam powered! And has a bronze lever to skip tracks! There could also be a smattering of gears and cogs and whatnot.

  8. thicket dweller on March 30, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    P.S. My seven-year-old daughter, who’s a bit of an autodidact, too, but not quite there yet, LOVES the Twitter reference. :-D

  9. thicket dweller on March 30, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    You’re my new hero! There simply aren’t enough people in the world who are making history uber cool, let alone adding SCIENCE, MATH and COMICS into the mix!

    My eleven-year-old daughter and I are autodidacts. Just today, we were reading about Babbage in Abraham Lincoln’s World by G. Foster. I then remembered my husband showing me a photo of the newly built Babbage machine and we read about some of it together. After showing the pictures to my daughter, I decided to try to find a more user-friendly description of the Babbage Engine and stumbled upon your site. GOLD! It’s so fun that you’re covering so many of the things that we just read this morning–Babbage, Lovelace, the U.S.’s economic collapse, steam–and in such a whimsical manner.

    In short, here’s what I have to say: GO, YOU!

  10. Barrie on November 20, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Love it! Got pointed here by a female (practical) engineer of my acquaintance. Don’t dare tell her but she would make a good Brunel. Babbage and Brunal were amoung my teenage heros/role-models.
    Please keep it up!

  11. Robin on October 28, 2009 at 2:04 am

    I have been loving L&B since running across it in my search for all things steampunk. I just can’t get enough. Ada is awesome and all little girls should learn about her or at the very least, read L&B because she’s so cool. Brunel is a sexy beast! And Babbage, the uber genius, is just great.

  12. Simon on October 20, 2009 at 4:11 am

    I can’t decide. Is it bad that my mother said, “It’s a shame for Ada she was already married, cuz her and Big B [Brunel (yes, she really called him “Big B”)] would’ve been great.”

  13. S2 on July 14, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Brilliant. :)

    I followed a link from Rabett Run ([url=][/url) to get here, and I’m glad that I did – it’s a great place to spend time that you can’t really afford to.

    I’ve ordered a mug despite the price (which is quite high in the UK), if you ever do publish the collected works I would buy multiple copies as they would make excellent presents for the other geeks in the family.


  14. doIreallyNeedanAlias on July 12, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    In reference to your remark that you do not know anything about economics- Balderdash, my child! You know everything that anybody (actually, everybody) needs to know about economics. Carry on!

  15. ubiquitouspitt on June 5, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    I actually heard Indiana Jones music playing in panels 7-9. Did you put that there or was it just me?

    Engineers are hard sorts compared to mathematicians. I see that now.

    I love how parliament looks like a bunch of sock puppets.

    >US government which pretty much started out with a bank bail-out.

    Yes, I learned that in my American Revolution class, last semester, and chuckled and chuckled and cried.

  16. subliminalfox on June 2, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    ooops, apparently Brunel shirts are available! my mistake! whooo!

  17. subliminalfox on June 2, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    Brunel shirts would seriously be awesome. Great to see his appearance. I love the Lovelace and Babbage comic. Please continue!

    ….and more Brunel, lol.

  18. Richard on May 28, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    I mention Davy because:
    he’s a poet and a scientist,
    according to Wikipedia his “friends would often say: ‘This boy Humphry is incorrigible. He will blow us all into the air,’ and his eldest sister complained of the ravages made on her dresses by corrosive substances”;
    he was addicted to laughing gas;
    and he has a Vesuvius connection.

    Sadly, he died in Switzerland 8 years before your story, although I think we all know that’s a kind of code.

    Oh man, now I’m all over your comments like a cheap suit. Sorry, next time I will order my thoughts before posting.

  19. richard on May 28, 2009 at 4:16 am

    …it does my heart good to see Brunel, too: as a child I traveled regularly over Brunel’s Tamar bridge, and my father went to school at Clifton. I know he’s a little outside the period, but I don’t suppose there’s any chance of a cameo for Humphry Davy?

  20. richard on May 28, 2009 at 4:05 am

    This comic has made me laugh more than everything by Armstrong and Miller, and the double panel of Brunel and Lovelace, with its Wolverine and Seinfeld overtones, is the best thing I’ve seen all year.

    he’s all, “Alpha Dog, gentlemen.” Ow. Stop. Don’t stop.

  21. ADdude on May 23, 2009 at 5:48 am

    I don’t like math but I have such a huge crush on Ada Lovelace

  22. E. on May 22, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    Oooh thank you thank you. You do splendid sound effects. And the plot wrap-up—funny, tight, historical, but better than real history… all this and math and engineer jokes!

    I’m yearning, yearning I tell you, for Isambard Kingdom Brunel grinning over his armful of plans on t-shirts, mugs, travel-coffee-cups, whatevers. A big door-size poster. Cafe Press?

    And might the Brunel Museum be interested in your, uh, re-conceiving of the great man? Could you run a few samples and send them to them?

  23. Suw on May 22, 2009 at 8:16 am

    God, I love bad-boy Brunel. He looks like a real handful. Great ep, though Syd. More steamulus!!

    Anyway, there are Ada Lovelace badges, done by someone around Ada Lovelace Day:

    Can’t wait for Lovelace & Babbage t-shirts… ;)

  24. Another fangirl on May 22, 2009 at 4:50 am

    No kidding! “Why yes, I *could* use an engineer! Right now!”

  25. Susan on May 22, 2009 at 4:15 am

    I am all fangirly about Lovelace. Is there an official fanclub? I would so sign up. I would so create such a fanclub except that family stress is currently overwhelming me like a relentless avalanche. I think there should be Ada Lovelace fanclub badges that we can put on our Facebook pages etc. In addition to the T-shirts and mouse pads, of course. (Like you don’t have enough on your plate already!)

  26. Minivet on May 22, 2009 at 2:59 am

    Never mind, I was misspelling it.

  27. Minivet on May 22, 2009 at 2:59 am

    So is the last joke that Wedmore and Climping are two tiny villages or something? I can’t even find Climping in the Blue-and-Grey Lady.

  28. EvilHayama on May 22, 2009 at 1:23 am

    I for one am glad you snuck “Steamulus” in there, but I am a big nerd. Great comic!

  29. Smallpotato on May 21, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    Gosh.. Brunel is such a sexy beast.

    *sighs all fangirly*