A biography of Ada Lovelace

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Ada Lovelace, or Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace to give her her official title, was a pioneering English mathematician who many agree was the world’s first computer programmer. Today, she is remembered as the “Mother of programming“.

She was the only legitimate daughter of the famous English poet Lord George Byron, who died in Greece when Ada was only eight years old.

His written instructions for Charles BabbageThe analytical engine marks a key moment in the history of the development of modern computers. Today, she is considered a true visionary who was ahead of her time.

Here, we’re going to take a quick peek into the life of this amazing woman and reveal her huge impact on the world.

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

Source: Aristocrat / Flickr

Ada came from a majestic but broken home

The woman who wrote the first computer program was born Augusta Ada Byron in London on December 10, 1815. But his youth would not be happy. Her mother, Lady Anne Isabella Milbanke Byron, separated from her father just weeks after his birth, and Lord Byron left England a few months later, never to return. He died in Greece when Ada was eight, and she never really got to know him.

Unusually for an aristocratic girl at the time, Ada learned math and science – her mother hoped that studying science would prevent Ada from developing her father’s mental illness and unpredictable temper. According to some sources, she was also forced to stand still for long periods of time to help her develop self-control.

Ada Lovelace Enchantress of Numbers
Source: Helen Harrop / Flickr

Typical of the time, all of her classes were taught at home by private teachers, but she also studied and read voraciously. Ada showed an early talent for mathematics and languages, and received instructions from Mary Somerville, Scottish astronomer and mathematician, and one of the first women to be admitted to the Royal Astronomical Society; as good as Auguste De Morgan, the first professor of mathematics at the University of London.

Ada first met Charles Babbage, mathematician and inventor, around the age of 17. The couple became friends, much older Babbage, acting as a mentor.

At the age of 19, on the July 8, 1835, she got married William King (8th Baron King) on the July 8, 1835. When he was elevated to the rank of count in 1838, Lovelace became Countess of Lovelace. By all reports, their marriage was happy and King supported his wife’s academic interests – also unusual for the time. The couple shared a love horses and had three children together.

Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace

In 1843, Ada was asked by Charles Babbage to translate an article on Babbage’s analytical engine which had been written by Italian engineer Luigi Federico Menabrea for a Swiss newspaper.

She duly translated the original French text into English but also added her own thoughts and ideas on the machine, and made some corrections to the original Babbage calculations that were included in the document. His notes ended up being three times as long as the original article.

Ada quickly realized that the potential of the machine far exceeded simple calculations. In her notes she shows that it could be used to calculate Bernoulli numbers, but also describes how codes could be created to allow the device to handle letters and symbols as well as numbers.

She also discussed a way for the engine to repeat a series of instructions, a process used by computer programmers today, known as looping.

The analytical engine does not occupy common ground with simple “calculating machines”. It holds a position in its own right, and the considerations it suggests are more interesting by their nature. “- Ada lovelace.

Lovelace, in his notes, demonstrated with the help of diagrams ways to use the engine to perform calculations for practical and scientific purposes. Using her musical knowledge, she also assumed that one day such a machine could be used to compose music.

Analytical engine Ada Love Charles Babbage
Source: Bruno Barral (ByB) / Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately, Lovelace’s article received little attention during his lifetime, but she would continue to correspond with Babbage until his death.

Despite all of her hard work, Babbage’s analytical engine never came to fruition. His work will remain dormant for a hundred years, until its significance is again realized in the age of computers.

How did Ada Lovelace die?

Ada Lovelace just before her death
Ada Lovelace at the piano in 1852. Source: Henry Phillips / Wikimedia communes

Lovelace suffered a bout of cholera in 1837, after which his health declined. At November 27, 1852 she lost her battle with uterine cancer and died at the much too young age of 36. His body was buried in the cemetery of the Church of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine in Nottingham, England.

A tragic end for an extraordinary woman. As Lao Tzu once said, “The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.

The world had lost a true visionary in Ada and an extraordinary woman who was nicknamed the “Enchantress of numbersby her good friend Charles Babbage. Ada preferred to define herself as an analyst and a metaphysician. Today, she is remembered as one of the first people to realize the potential of computers and informatics.

Ada Lovelace Google Day
Google logo for Ada’s 197th birthday. Source: Google /Yvonne Kao / Flickr


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