Ada LovelaceThe World's 1st Computer Programmer
Who was Ada Lovelace?
Ada Lovelace was a mathematician and computer scientist. She is the daughter of Lord Byron and Anne Isabella Byron. Ada was born on December 10, 1815, in London, England and she died on November 27, 1852, in Marylebone, London, England.
Ada Lovelace is famous for writing the first algorithm on paper and being the first computer programmer. She worked with Charles Babbage on his Analytical Engine which had a programmable memory. The Analytical Engine used punch cards that were designed by Lovelace herself to input instructions into the machine so that it could process the data.
Ada’s Early Life and Education
Ada’s mother was Lady Byron and her father, the poet Lord Byron. Her parents separated when she was just a baby and Ada was left with her mother. Her father died when she was eight years old, and although her mother was technically her parent, she didn’t care for the child. Despite being detached from Ada, she tried to control everything around her. She arranged to have her learn math and science so that Ada wouldn’t be like her father, and she had her friends watch everything that Eva did, which so annoyed Ada that she nicknamed her mother’s friends “the Furies.” Eventually, she was placed in the care of her maternal grandmother, Judith, Hon. Lady Milbanke.
Eva was a sickly child. She had debilitating headaches beginning around 8 years old, which correlated with the dead of her father. Then, in 1831, she had a terrible case of Measles which paralyzed her for over a year. It was during this period that she improved her math skills. However, her affair and attempted elopement could have destroyed her in London society, but her mother and her friends managed to cover up the incident. After that, Ada was given a woman tutor, Mary Somerville.
When she was presented at Court at the age of 17, she was quite popular because of her “brilliant mind.” Ada married William King-Noel, 1st Earl of Lovelace when she was 20 years old, and they had three children together. She continued to study math after she was married and de Morgan, a friend of her tutor introduced her to the “numbers of Bernoulli.” It was through her tutor, Mary, that she met Charles Babbage, a mathematician, who introduced her to his calculating machine which is now called the Difference Engine. She was fascinated by it and her study of the machine, the Bernoulli numbers and her notes on Menabrea’s paper about Babbage’s lecture in Geneva lead her to write the first algorithm. Her notes were alphabetical, and it was in note G that she described the first computer algorithm.
According to Betty Toole in Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers (a nickname given to her by Babbage), Ada believed that intuition and imagination were critical to effectively apply mathematical and scientific concepts and to explore “the unseen worlds around us”. Unfortunately, Ada left this world much too early. She died at only 36 years old from uterine cancer.
Ada Lovelace’s Legacy Lives On
Over a hundred years after her mathematical discoveries, these are just a few of the events that have honored Ada Lovelace:
Ada Lovelace Day is celebrated each year on the second Tuesday of October. Its goal is to “… raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths,” and to “create new role models for girls and women” in these fields.
In 1980, the US Department of Defense named the Ada programming language after her.
Since 1981, the Association for Women in Computing has given out the Ada Lovelace Award.
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