This week, we will now discuss a woman who’s greatness is finally being acknowledged by society for her extraordinary intellect: Ada Lovelace.
The brilliant woman we now know as Ada Lovelace was born as the “Honourable August Ada Byron.” She was the only legitimate child of the poet Lord Byron, and her mother was Baroness Anne Isabella Milbanke. Lord Byron and Baroness Milbanke soon separated, however, as Byron was busy having an affair with his half sister (yikes). Lord Byron and the Baroness legally separated, and the Baroness went on to be a philanthropist, supporting the middle and working class and even fugitive slaves (“Ada Lovelace: Victorian Computing Visionary”).
Because of her mother’s wealth, Ada was extremely well educated despite the fact she could not formally attend school due to her gender. Her mother encouraged Ada’s study of math and science because she feared that if Ada turned to poetry Ada would start becoming mad like her father. Thankfully for her mother, Ada loved science and math, and designed her first flying machine that was eventually patented when she was a mere twelve years old (“Ada Lovelace: Victorian Computing Visionary”).
While Ada was married at age nineteen and soon had children, she did not let family life slow her down. She asked Augustus De Morgan, a prominent mathematician, to be her tutor. De Morgan studied symbolic logic, a subject all computer science students must cry overstudy today. He saw her brilliance and said that if she had been born male, she would have been “an original mathematical investigator, perhaps of first-rate eminence” (Miller).
Lovelace’s first exposure to computing was from British inventor Charles Babbage. He had the idea of an “Analytical Engine” to solve math problems. Lovelace spent decades corresponding with Babbage about this machine. She added a “notes” section to Babbage’s paper about the machine, nearly tripling the document’s length. In this section, she outlines the first computer programs, which is why she is considered the world’s first computer programmer. Lovelace wrote about “the abstract principles of computation, how you could program [the machine], and big ideas like maybe it could compose music, maybe it could think” (Miller).
Clearly, Lovelace was way beyond her time. Unfortunately, however, Lovelace was very sickly throughout her life and eventually developed uterine cancer. She died when she was merely thirty-six years old, and was buried next to her father. Her work was rediscovered by the computer scientist Alan Turing during World War II, and helped form understanding of computing today (“Ada Lovelace: Victorian Computing Visionary”).
Charman-Anderson, Suw. “Ada Lovelace: Victorian Computing Visionary.” Ada Lovelace Day, findingada.com/shop/a-passion-for-science-stories-of-discovery-and-invention/ada-lovelace-victorian-computing-visionary/.
Miller, Claire Cain. “Ada Lovelace, Mathematician Who Wrote the First Computer Program.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 8 Mar. 2018, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/obituaries/overlooked-ada-lovelace.html.