Argh, sorry about the long delay folks, I’ve been out of town for a couple of weeks. But I am back! and so are Babbage and Lovelace! and so is… someone else..
My own poetic licence was revoked under circumstances too embarrassing to recount here, involving unwise use of mixed metaphors and exactly the wrong place to put an anapest.
I had some considerable anxiety over this episode because the Brontes kind of belong to Kate Beaton now, but Vampire Poets has always started for me with Emily Bronte breaking windows for Babbage’s chart, and that’s just how it had to be! Charlotte Bronte provides a description of her sister in the preface to the 1851 edition of Wuthering Heights; Emily did not in actuality accompany the other two sisters on their well-known visit to London, probably because this is just the sort of thing they were afraid would happen. She succumbed to Poetry at the age of 30. Complete poems here.
I had some difficulty finding that chart, because it’s attributed in the Mechanics Magazine mysteriously to a ‘distinguished statistician’! I had to track it down in a roundabout way, via the Insurance Cyclopedia, which in itself I could only see the cover in in Google Books. Being published in 1878 it is just outside of Google Books possibly excessively cautious 1870 copyright cutoff in Europe. You see, without delving into the life history of its author Mr. Cornelius Walford, it cannot be 100% guaranteed that this 1878 book falls outside of life+70 years. Cornelius may have been a youthful 20-year-old firebrand, eager to make his name in the field of actuarial history, who pursued his craft until the age of 95! This however would have made him 10 years old on the publication of The Insurance Guide and Handbook on Fire, Life, Marine, Tontine, and Casualty Insurance, an unusually precocious age for an interest in actuarial theory. In the end no less a person than James Gleick was kind enough to send me a PDF of this inestimable volume with its entire chapter on the history of glass breakage insurance, so I’m delighted to have another chance to plug his excellent book with its very substantial section on Babbage and Lovelace.
Where was I? Statistics! Zoo animal food consumption and frequency of surname starting-letters are just some of the subjects on which the tireless Babbage wished to have accurate data. You can read about his project in On the Tables of Constants in Nature and Art.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel kept notebooks in little shelves in his hat; I don’t know if this was a standard thing but I would certainly expect it of Babbage!
Sorry again for the long wait, next one should come much brisker!