Ada Lovelace

“The intellectual, the moral, the religious seem to me all naturally bound up and interlinked together in one great and harmonious whole.”

Quick Facts

Born: 10th December 1815

Died: 27th November 1852

Nationality: English

Occupation: Mathematician and scientist

Known for: Often considered to be the first computer programmer.

Childhood

Ada Lovelace was a daughter (and the only legitimate child) of the poet George Gordon Byron and his wife Anne Isabella Milbanke. By all accounts her childhood could not be described as happy and carefree. Her parents separated a month after Ada was born and she was left with her mother who seemed to have little maternal instinct. She had no relationship at all with her father. She was quite sickly as a child, with a 2-year period of being bedridden. However, those difficulties did not stop her from developing her mathematical skills. Her mother deserves some credit in this respect, as she insisted that Ada be taught mathematics and science from an early age, which was not a standard for a girl at that time but which was an attempt of preventing her to develop any interest in poetry like her father. 

Education

Ada Lovelace was taught mathematics from an early age. Her early education also included music and French. Among her tutors were William King, William Frend and Mary Sommerville, who was one of the most notable female mathematician. It was Mary Sommerville who introduced Ada to Charles Babbage, with whose ideas she became fascinated. Much to her mother’s displeasure, Ada turned out to have inherited her father’s vivid imagination and creativity, which combined with her talent for science allowed her to see things from a different perspective and create a notion of “poetical science”. Throughout her life, Ada continued to learn mathematics. She corresponded with her former tutor, Mary Sommerville and with University of London mathematician Augustus de Morgan. 

Career and Achievements

Ada Lovelace is most known for having assisted Charles Babbage on his work on the Difference Engine and Analytical Engine. She translated an article on Analytical Engine, written by an Italian engineer Luigi Federico Menabrea, from French into English. She added her own notes and comments into the text and in 1843 her work was published. The most notable part of her work was the first computer program – Bernoulli number algorithm, for which she is often considered to be world’s first programmer. She described how to break the algorithm down into operations which the Analytical Engine could perform, and how to code them. Her deep understanding of the Analytical Engine led her to the realisation that it could manipulate symbols, as well as numbers, and from there, allowed her to form a conception that a computer could in fact perform any task, given the right programming. However, most of her work didn’t gain a lot of attention until a century after her death. 

Trivia 

  • Ada Lovelace was called “The Enchantress of Numbers” by Charles Babbage. 
  • In 1979 a programming language was called “Ada” in her honour. 
  • She was a compulsive gambler and unsuccessfully tried to use her mathematical abilities to develop winning schemes. 
  • She designed a flying machine in 1828, at the age of 12. 

References

  1. http://findingada.com/shop/a-passion-for-science-stories-of-discovery-and-invention/ada-lovelace-victorian-computing-visionary/ 
  2. https://www.biography.com/people/ada-lovelace-20825323 
  3. https://www.famousscientists.org/ada-lovelace/ 
  4. http://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/ada-lovelace-6234.php 
  5. The Bride of Science: Romance, Reason, and Byron’s Daughter by Benjamin Wolley 
  6. Science incarnate : historical embodiments of natural knowledge by Christopher Lawrence and Steven Shapin