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@FreeBooksSat 25 Nov, 2023
THE EDINBURGH REVIEW,
THE CALCULATING ENGINE
Notwithstanding the interest with which this invention has been regarded in every part of the world, it has never yet been embodied in a written, much less in a published form. We trust, therefore, that some credit will be conceded to us for having been the first to make the public acquainted with the object, principle, and structure of a piece of machinery, which, though at present unknown , must, when completed, produce important effects, not only on the progress of science, but on that of civilisation.
The calculating machinery thus undertaken for the public gratuitously , has now attained a very advanced stage towards completion; and a portion of it has been put together, and performs various calculations;--affording a practical demonstration that the anticipations of those, under whose advice Government has acted, have been well founded.
With a view to remove and correct erroneous impressions, and at the same time to convert the vague sense of wonder at what seems incomprehensible, with which this project is contemplated by the public in general, into a more rational and edifying sentiment, it is our purpose in the purpose in the present article.
Viewing the infinite extent and variety of the tables which have been calculated and printed, from the earliest periods of human civilisation to the present time, we feel embarrassed with the difficulties of the task which we have imposed on ourselves;--that of attempting to convey to readers unaccustomed to such speculations, any thing approaching to an adequate idea of them. These tables are connected with the various sciences, with almost every department of the useful arts, with commerce in all its relations; but above all, with Astronomy and Navigation. So important have they been considered, that in many instances large sums have been appropriated by the most enlightened nations in the production of them; and yet so numerous and insurmountable have been the difficulties attending the attainment of this end, that after all, even navigators, putting aside every other department of art and science, have, until very recently, been scantily and imperfectly supplied with the tables indispensably necessary to determine their position at sea.
Tables of Multiplication to a still greater extent have been published in France. In 1785, was published an octavo volume of tables of the squares, cubes, square roots, and cube roots of all numbers from 1 to 10,000; and similar tables were again published in 1801. In 1817, multiplication tables were published in Paris by Voisin; and similar tables, in two quarto volumes, in 1824, by the French Board of Longitude, extending as far as a thousand times a thousand. A table of squares was published in 1810, in Hanover; in 1812, at Leipzig; in 1825, at Berlin; and in 1827, at Ghent. A table of cubes was published in 1827, at Eisenach; in the same year a similar table at Ghent; and one of the squares of all numbers as far as 10,000, was published in that year, in quarto, at Bonn. The Prussian Government has caused a multiplication table to be calculated and printed, extending as far as 1000 times 1000. Such are a few of the tables of this class which have been published in different countries.
This class of tables may be considered as purely arithmetical, since the results which they express involve no other relations than the arithmetical dependence of abstract numbers upon each other. When numbers, however, are taken in a concrete sense, and are applied to express peculiar modes of quantity,--such as angular, linear, superficial, and solid magnitudes,--a new set of numerical relations arise, and a large number of computations are required.
To express angular magnitude, and the various relations of linear magnitude with which it is connected, involves the consideration of a vast variety of Geometrical and Trigonometrical tables; such as tables of the natural sines, co-sines, tangents, secants, co-tangents, &c. &c.; tables of arcs and angles in terms of the radius; tables for the immediate solution of various cases of triangles, &c. Volumes without number of such tables have been from time to time computed and published. It is not sufficient, however, for the purposes of computation to tabulate these immediate trigonometrical functions. Their squares and higher powers, their square roots, and other roots, occur so frequently, that it has been found expedient to compute tables for them, as well as for the same functions of abstract numbers.
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