Ada Lovelace

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Ada Lovelace

Mathematical Training

December 10, 1815 - November 27, 1852

Ada Byron Lovelace was raised to be a mathematician and a scientist. She hoped to be an analyst and metaphysician, though still had an interest in poetry and her understanding of mathematics was "laced with imagination and described in metaphors" (Toole). At 17, Ada met Mary Somerville, a mathematician who had published The Mechanism of Heavens. She would go on to tutor Ada in mathematics and science and attempted to put mathematics and technology into a human context (Toole).She had an incredible influence on Ada's life and is was through her actions that would influence Ada Byron Lovelace deeply and cause her to become the first computer programmer.Somerville encouraged Ada's mathematical studies and it was at dinner party of hers that Ada would first hear of Charles Babbage and his Analytical Engine.

Charles Babbage had an idea to create a new calculating engine called the Analytical Engine. His plans involved creating a machine that would not only foresee, but that could also act on foresight - an idea that touched Ada (Toole).In 1841, Babbage presented his plans for the engine to a seminar in Italy, following which an article summarizing Babbage's ideas was published in French. Ada Lovelace's contribution to the Analytical Engine began when she translated the article for Babbage. He suggested that she add some of her own expansive notes to it (which were three times the lenght of the original article).In 1843, she published her own article on the Analytical Engine. This article included footnotes and explanatory sections that enhanced the information from the original article and made it not only longer, but more useful to readers.Ada Lovelace saw many more possibilities for the machine than many others.She also wrote of her predictions for the possibilities of such a machine to compose complex music, produce graphics, and be used to do anything from the practical to the scientific. These predictions turned out to be correct, as I type this from my computer and you read it from yours.Ada Lovelace had an incredible understanding of brand new technology that was unlike anything else, and she helped it go beyond Babbage's original plans for it.Not only that, but she had an ability to make the plans understandable for others as well.The article was published and distributed by Babbage, though Ada had only signed it A.A.L and it would be 30 years before her identify as the author would become commonly known. Ada Lovelace is given credit for writing the first computer program after she gave Babbage suggestions on writing a plan for how the Engine could calculate Bernoulli numbers.This plan is believed to be the table included above the picture of the Analytical Engine to the right.The Analytical Engine could read data from a deck of puched cards, store data, and perform arithmetic operations (IdeaFinder).With Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace was responsible for creating some of the early conceptual and technical groundwork for technology that would eventually develop into the computer as we know it (IdeaFinder).


(2005). Ada Lovelace. IdeaFinder. Chadwick, P., (2013). Ada Byron Lovelace: The first computer programmer. History’s Women.Connell, M. (2010). The Powerhouse musuem celebrates Ada Lovelace day. The Powerhouse Museum.Toole, B. A., (2014). Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace. Agnes Scott College.


First Computer Programmer

The Analytical Engine

Ada Lovelace was born Augusta Ada Byron. She was born in London, England to Lord Byron, a poet, and Anne Isabelle Milbanke, who was sometimes called the Princess of Parallelograms. Her parents divorced five weeks after her birth and she was raised by her mother, who encouraged Ada to study mathematics like herself, rather than become a poet like her father.She was privately tutored and from a young age showed a gift for mathematics. A lot of her education was unsual for a women at the time, but her mother believed that her studies would keep Ada from becoming moody and unpredictable like her father, Lord Byron, whom Ada never met as he died in Greece when she was 8. Lady Byron also worried about Ada becoming a poet like her father, thus encouraged her interest in mathematics and hired many tutors throughout Ada's youth to instruct her (IdeaFinder).Her childhood had a huge impact on her career as a mathematician as it gave her the interest and ability to approach it. She had health problems as a child and grew ill in 1829. She could not walk for three years, however, in this time she continued her studies and she excelled in mathematics, music, and linguistics. Her mother felt that Ada's education in music was important to help with her social education.Through Mary Sommerville, a friend and role model of Ada's, Ada met her husband, Lord William King. They had three children together. Ada Byron became Lady Lovelace in 1838, when her husband became the Earl of Lovelace.When she published her paper on the Analytical Engine, even though it was the high point of her career, she kept her identify a secret and only signed it A.A.L. She did this because she felt it "unbecoming for a woman of her social class to publish anything so "unfeminine" despite the pride she took in it and the admiration she received from those who knew she published it (IdeaFinder). She had a 19 year friendship with Babbage, who upon their meeting was impressed that she could understand the machine's complicated opperation (Connell). Over the years they exchanged many letters and encouraged the development of the Analytical Engine as well as Ada's work in mathematics.However, even during this time her health continued to be poor and was so throughout her life.She died of cancer at age 37 while in London.

Ada Lovelace's contribution to mathematics was incredible. She made predictions about the machine's ability that went beyond that of anyone else in her time, and understood it in ways unlike anyone else as well, and her article contained ideas what were visionary from a modern perspective (Chadwick). Her work continues to be acknowledged. In 1979, a language development softwere was developed by the U.S. Dept. of Defense and was named Ada in her honor (Toole).


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