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Percy Edwin Ludgate
Portrait photograph of Percy Ludgate
Born(1883-08-02)August 2, 1883
DiedOctober 16, 1922(1922-10-16) (aged 39)
Dublin, Ireland
Resting placeMount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin
Known forDesign of the second analytical engine in history
Scientific career
FieldsAccountancy; mechanical computer design
InstitutionsKevans & Son (Dublin)
InfluencesCharles Babbage

Percy Edwin Ludgate (2 August 1883 – 16 October 1922) was an Irish amateur scientist who designed the second analytical engine (general-purpose Turing-complete computer) in history.[1]

Ludgate was born in Skibbereen, County Cork, to Michael Ludgate and Mary McMahon.[1] In the 1901 census, he is listed as Civil Servant National Education (Boy Copyist) in Dublin.[2] In the 1911 census, he is also in Dublin, as a Commercial Clerk (Corn Merchant).[3] He studied accountancy at Rathmines College of Commerce, earning a gold medal based on the results his final examinations in 1917.[4] At some date before or after then, he joined Kevans & Son, accountants. He died in Dublin aged 39, of pneumonia, his death certificate listing him as an accountant.[5]

It seems that Ludgate worked as a clerk for an unknown corn merchants, in Dublin, and pursued his interest in calculating machines at night.[4] Charles Babbage in 1843 and Ludgate in 1909 designed the only two mechanical analytical engines before the electromechanical analytical engine of Leonardo Torres y Quevedo of 1920 and its few successors, and the six first-generation electronic analytical engines of 1949.

Working alone, Ludgate designed an analytical engine while unaware of Babbage's designs, although he later went on to write about Babbage's machine. Ludgate's engine used multiplication as its base mechanism (unlike Babbage's which used addition). It incorporated the first multiplier-accumulator, and was the first to exploit a multiplier-accumulator to perform division (using multiplication seeded by reciprocal, via the convergent series (1 + x)−1).

Ludgate's engine also used a mechanism similar to slide rules, but employing his unique discrete Logarithmic Indexes (now known as Irish logarithms),[6] and provided a very novel memory using concentric cylinders, storing numbers as displacements of rods in shuttles. His design featured several other novel features, including for program control (e.g., preemption and subroutines – or microcode, depending on viewpoint). The design is so different from Babbage's as to be a second type of analytical engine, preceding the third (electromechanical) and fourth (electronic) types. The engine's precise mechanism is unknown as the only written accounts which survive do not detail its workings, although he stated in 1914 that "[c]omplete descriptive drawings of the machine exist, as well as a description in manuscript" – these have never been found.[1]

Ludgate was one of a few independent workers in the field of science and mathematics.[citation needed] His inventions were worked on outside a lab. He worked on them only part-time, often until the early hours of the morning. Many publications refer to him as an accountant, but that came eight years after his 1909 analytical engine paper. Little is known about his personal life, as his only records are his scientific writings. The best source of information about Ludgate and his significance lie in the work of Professor Brian Randell. As from 2016, a further investigation is underway at Trinity College, Dublin under the auspices of The John Gabriel Byrne Computer Science Collection.[citation needed]

Ludgate died of pneumonia in 1922, and is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin.[citation needed]

Legacy

In 1991, a prize for the best final-year project in the Moderatorship in computer science course at Trinity College, Dublin – the Ludgate Prize – was instituted in his honour, and in 2016 the Ludgate Hub e-business incubation centre was opened in Skibbereen, where he was born.[citation needed]

References

  1. ^ a b c "The legend of Percy Ludgate, Skibbereen's early answer to Bill Gates". The Irish Times. 6 February 2003.
  2. ^ "Residents of a house 30 in Dargle Road (Glasnevin, Dublin)". Census Years 1901. The National Archives of Ireland. 1901.
  3. ^ "Residents of a house 30 in Dargle Road, Drumcondra (Glasnevin, Dublin)". Census Years 1911. The National Archives of Ireland. 1911.
  4. ^ a b "The John Gabriel Byrne Computer Science Collection online catalog". www.scss.tcd.ie. Ireland: Trinity College Dublin.
  5. ^ "Death Certificate: Percy Edwin Ludgate". IrishGenealogy.ie. Ireland.
  6. ^ Boys, C. V. (July 1909). "A new analytical engine". Nature. 81 (2070): 14–15. doi:10.1038/081014a0.

Bibliography