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William Ballantyne Hodgson

Babbage, the invention of the calculating machine, and economics

William Hodgson (1815-1880) was Professor of Political Economy at the University of Edinburgh and a leading educational reformer. Educated at the University of Edinburgh, in 1871 he was appointed as the first Professor of Commercial and Political Economy and Mercantile Law at the University of Edinburgh. His classes were popular, even though his subject was not part of any degree curriculum.

His collection of some 1,000 books on the history of political economy, trade and finance were gifted to the Library by his widow in 1880. They include 32 items from the library of Adam Smith, and others from the library of Charles Babbage, the mathematician and inventor of the calculating machine which presaged the computer. Hodgson annotated many of his books.

These books all appear in the pre-1985 typescript catalogue and many have online catalogue records. Originally all items had shelfmarks beginning “Zo.” and “Zp.”, although some items have now been moved to other sequences. Many are to be found at shelfmarks SD 2440 onwards. The Centre for Research Collections maintains manual files of the collection.

There are also two volumes of manuscripts, at Gen. 826 and Gen. 2074, on political economy and phrenology.