[SIGCIS-Members] Origin of 'language'?

David Alan Grier grier at gwu.edu
Wed Nov 5 11:16:38 PST 2014

 If we are going to Lovelace, then we need to go to the Memoirs of the Analytical Society.  "It is the spirit of this symbolic language, by that mechanical fact, which carries the eye at one glance through the most intricate modifications of quantity, to condense pages into lines and volumes into pages; shortening the road to discovery, and preserving the mind unfatigued by the continued efforts of attention to the minor parts that it may exert its whole vigor on those which are important".   Babbage and Herschel wrote it.  Babbage referenced it in his later writings.  Lovelace would have certainly known it.

David Alan Grier
Past President, IEEE Computer Society 


Associate Professor, International Science & Technology Policy  
Elliott School of International Affairs 
George Washington University
grier at gwu.edu

On Nov 5, 2014, at 2:07 PM, McMillan, William W <william.mcmillan at cuaa.edu> wrote:

> Do these notes by Ada Lovelace count"
> 'The bounds of arithmetic were however outstepped the moment the idea of applying the cards had occurred; and the Analytical Engine does not occupy common ground with mere “calculating machines.” It holds a position wholly its own; and the considerations it suggests are most interesting in their nature. In enabling mechanism to combine together general symbols in successions of unlimited variety and extent, a uniting link is established between the operations of matter and the abstract mental processes of the most abstract branch of mathematical science. A new, a vast, and a powerful language is developed for the future use of analysis, in which to wield its truths so that these may become of more speedy and accurate practical application for the purposes of mankind than the means hitherto in our possession have rendered possible. Thus not only the mental and the material, but the theoretical and the practical in the mathematical world, are brought into more intimate and effective connexion with each other. We are not aware of its being on record that anything partaking in the nature of what is so well designated the Analytical Engine has been hitherto proposed, or even thought of, as a practical possibility, any more than the idea of a thinking or of a reasoning machine'
> [emphasis added]
> https://www.fourmilab.ch/babbage/sketch.html
> Her use of "language" here seems to be specific to the expression of computation and reasoning.
> - Bill
> ________________________________
> From: members-bounces at sigcis.org [members-bounces at sigcis.org] on behalf of Marie Gevers [marie.gevers at unamur.be]
> Sent: Wednesday, November 05, 2014 4:13 AM
> To: members
> Subject: [SIGCIS-Members] Origin of 'language'?
> I wonder by whom and when the word 'language' was used for the first time in the framework of computer sciences.
> Can anybody enlighten me?
> Thanks in advance.
> Marie
> --
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