23rd May 2024

Self-confident Tennyson wasn’t put off by Babbage


The poem ‘Vision of Sin’ (1842) by Alfred, Lord Tennyson has the following lines:

Every moment dies a man

Every moment one is born

Charles Babbage, the famous mathematician and designer of the first programmable computer, argued that these lines indicate that the world population remains fixed, which is contrary to the reality and advised him to change the lines in the next edition to the following:

Every moment dies a man

And one and sixteenth is born

Tennyson expectedly did not act on the advice from Babbage. However, changes in the lines written by Tennyson were effectual nine years later when the second edition was published.

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