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Fascinating facts about Ada Lovelace programmer
of an early computer, the Analytical Engine in 1843.

Ada Lovelace
AT A GLANCE:
Although her life was short, she only lived 36 years, Augusta Ada Lovelace anticipated by more than a century most of what we think is brand-new computing. Her work with Charles Babbage and his Calculating Engines produced what she called "the plan". In hindsight what Ada had proposed was a program stored on punch cards for use on an early computer, The Analytical Engine in 1843
THE STORY
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Inventor: Augusta Ada Lovelace
Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace image courtesy www.cs.kuleuven.ac.be
Criteria: First to invent. First to patent. First practical. Entrepreneur.
Birth: December 10, 1815 in London, England
Death: November 27, 1852 in London, England
Nationality: British
Invention: computer programming in 1843
Punch card deck courtesy www.ibm.com
Function: noun / computer program in punched cards
Definition: In computer science, a sequence of instructions that a computer can interpret and execute; "the program required several hundred lines of code"
Milestones:
1815 born Augusta Ada Byron on December 10, 1815 in London, England
1829 Ada gets the measles and becomes an invalid for several years
1832 Ada is tutored by Mary Somerville in mathematics.and science
1833 Ada meets Charles Babbage and begins study and documentation of his calculating machines
1835 Ada marries William King on July 8 to become Ada King. They have three children together
1838 William and Ada King become Earl and Countess of Lovelace (June 30)
1842 "Sketch of the Analytical Engine" by Luigi F. Menabrea, published
1843 Luigi F. Menabrea paper is translated by Augusta Ada Lovelace and expands three fold
1843 In the "Notes", Ada described how the Analytical Engine could be programmed
1844 Ada begins to have health problems and can not continue her mathematical studies
1852 by January Ada was wracked with pain, her health problems are diagnosed as cancer
1852 Ada died on November 27, 1852 in London
1979 U,S, Dept.of Defense named its universal computer programming language, "ADA", after her.
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STORY:
Although her life was short, she only lived 36 years, Augusta Ada Lovelace anticipated by more than a century most of what we think is brand-new computing. Her work with Charles Babbage and his Calculating Engines produced what she called "the plan". In hindsight what Ada had proposed was a program stored on punch cards for use on an early computer, The Analytical Engine in 1843

Ada Byron Lovelace was a British mathematician and musician, born in London in 1815. Her father was the British poet, Lord Byron. Her mother, Annabella Milbanke, encouraged her to study mathematics. Ada married Lord William King, Earl of Lovelace, and had three children. She died of cancer in 1852 at the age of 36.

Ada Lovelace is best known as the first computer programmer. She wrote about Charles Babbage's "Analytical Engine" with such clarity and insight that her work became the premier text explaining the process now known as computer programming.


Lord George Gordon Byron and Annabella Milbanke Noel were married in 1815. She was the self-proclaimed "Princess of Parallelograms" and he was a popular poet. When his mood swings became too much for her to handle, Annabella left her husband. The union produced one child, Byron's only legitimate one, Augusta Ada Byron was born December 10, 1815.

On 25 April 1816 Lord Byron went abroad and Ada never saw her father again. Lord Byron never returned to England and died in Greece when Ada was eight years old. Lady Byron was given sole custody of her daughter Ada, who was declared a Ward in Chancery in April 1817, and she tried to do everything possible in bring up her child to ensure that she would not become a poet like her father.

 Lady Byron considered mathematics a good subject for training the mind to ensure that her daughter took a disciplined approach. Music, Lady Byron believed, was a topic that provided a girl with the right social skills so this was also emphasised in Ada's education. However although Lady Byron devoted much energy to organise Ada's upbringing she herself seems to have spent very little time with her.

A number of tutors were employed, often for only a short period, to direct Ada's education. At age about six she had a Miss Lamont as a tutor and, despite her mother's emphasis on mathematics, Ada's favourite subject was geography while arithmetic she only studied reluctantly in order to please her mother. On discovering that Ada preferred geography to arithmetic, Lady Byron insisted that one of Ada's geography lessons be replaced by an arithmetic lesson and shortly after this Miss Lamont was replaced as Ada's tutor.

Ada's mathematical education was undertaken by a number of private tutors. William Frend, who had tutored Lady Byron in mathematics, was involved in Ada's mathematical education but by this time he was an old man who had not kept pace with mathematical developments. Dr William King was also engaged as a tutor to Ada in 1829 but his interest in mathematics was not very deep and he confessed that he had studied mathematics by reading it rather than by doing it.

Some members of the family feared that Lady Byron was insisting that her daughter be driven too hard. Lady Byron ignored the family concerns and kept a constant pressure on her daughter to work hard and long at her lessons. Some rewards were offered but pressure was usually applied by giving Ada punishments like solitary confinement, making her lie motionless, and demanding that she write apologies..

Few can have done more to mould the character of their child than Lady Byron did! The young Ada, however, had long suffered some health problems and in 1829 contracted a mysterious illness (possibly of hysterical or psychosomatic origin) and was unable to walk for almost three years. During this time, she pursued her studies with tutors. She excelled at mathematics and became an accomplished musician and linguist.

The one person young Ada most longed to meet was Mary Sommerville, a mathematician who had just published The Mechanism of the Heavens, a book on mathematical astronomy. Fortunately, in 1932 the two became friends. It was Mrs. Sommerville who arranged for Ada to meet Lord William King, who later became Ada's husband. For Ada, Mrs. Sommerville was a role model -a woman who was also a mathematician!. Though Mrs. Somerville encouraged Ada in her mathematical studies, she also attempted to put mathematics and technology into an appropriate human context.

 It was at a dinner party at Mrs. Somerville's that Ada heard in November, 1834, Babbage's ideas for a new calculating engine, the Analytical Engine. He conjectured: what if a calculating engine could not only foresee but could act on that foresight. Ada was touched by the "universality of his ideas".

By observing what Babbage had designed and by asking him questions, she soon became an expert on the inventor's work. When Babbage changed his plans and began to design his analytical engine, Lovelace saw tremendous potential in the machine. She understood it better than most other people older and more experienced than she. Beautiful, charming, temperamental, an aristocratic hostess, mathematicians of the time thought her a magnificent addition to their number.

Ada King became Countess of Lovelace when her husband William King, whom she married on July 8, 1835, was created an Earl in 1838. They had three children; Byron born May 12,1836, Annabella born September 22, 1837 and Ralph Gordon born July 2, 1839.

Babbage worked on plans for this new engine and reported on the developments at a seminar in Turin, Italy in the autumn of 1841. An Italian, Luigi F. Menabrea, wrote a summary of what Babbage described and published an article written in French about the development.

Ada, in 1843, translated Menabrea's article. When she showed Babbage her translation he suggested that she add her own notes, which turned out to be three times the length of the original article. Letters between Babbage and Ada flew back and forth filled with fact and fantasy. In her article, published in 1843, Lady Lovelace's prescient comments included her predictions that such a machine might be used to compose complex music, to produce graphics, and would be used for both practical and scientific use. She added footnotes and explanatory sections which greatly enhanced the original. By the time she was finished, the paper was three times as long as Menabrea's, and much more useful.

Babbage was very pleased. He published and distributed Lovelace's work, modestly signed with only her initials "A.A.L." Although this paper was the summit of her career, she felt it was unbecoming for a woman of her social class to publish anything so "unfeminine." It was nearly 30 years before the identity of "A.A.L." was commonly known.

When inspired Ada could be very focused and a mathematical taskmaster. Ada suggested to Babbage writing a plan for how the engine might calculate Bernoulli numbers. This plan, is now regarded as the first "computer program." Ada Lovelace figures in the history of the Calculating Engines as Babbage's interpretress, his `fairy lady'. As such her achievement was remarkable.

Lovelace's Notes were published in Richard Taylor's Scientific Memoirs Volume 3 in 1843 with the author's name given as AAL. This was the high point of her achievements and for a while she basked in the admiration that she received from her friends who knew who AAL was, but already these friends were showing concern about her health. By the end of the year she was taking several medicines for different health problems which troubled her.

By January 1852 Lovelace was wracked with pain, as the cancer which presumably had been a major cause of her health problems for some time, became more acute. Her mind however remained as sharp as ever. In 1852, when only 37 years of age, Ada died of cancer. She was buried, at her request, beside Lord Byron in the Byron family vault.

Togeather Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace laid some of the early conceptual and technical groundwork for high technology by helping develop an early computer. The technology of their time was not capable of translating their ideas into practical use, but the Analytical Engine had many features of the modern computer. It could read data from a deck of punched cards, store data, and perform arithmetic operations.

The computer language, ADA, was commissioned in 1979 by the United States Department of Defense. Based on the language PASCAL, ADA is a general-purpose language designed to be readable and easily maintained. It is efficient for machines, yet easy to use. It was intended to become a standard language to replace the many specialized computer languages then in use.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
Charles Babbage Biography   from The Great Idea Finder
History of Computing  
from The Great Idea Finder
Women Inventors, A Class Act   from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers
by Betty A. Toole (Editor), Ada King Lovelace / Hardcover - 439 pages (March 1998) / CarTech Inc
A very pleasant biography in an original format, allowing for a good understanding of the main character. A Selection from the Letters of Lord Byron's Daughter and Her Description of the First Computer
Mothers of Invention: From the Bra to the Bomb: Forgotten Women and Their Unforgettable Ideas
by Ethlie Ann Vare, Greg Ptacek / Hardcover:256 pages / William Morrow & Co; (1988)
Women inventors, both serious and frivolous, are lauded, the authors' theme is to give credit to women whose creative talents have been unknown or largely ignored.
Mathmaticians are People, Too: Stories from the Lives of Great Mathematicians
by Luetta Reimer, Wilbert Reimer / Paperback: 152 pages / Dale Seymour Publications (June, 1993)
This Volume Two of two dramatizes the lives of Omar Khayyam, Albert Einstein, Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage, and others. 15 illustrated vignettes per book introduce students to great mathematicians from various cultures.
Feminine Ingenuity: Women and Invention in America
by Anne L. MacDonald / Paperback - 540 pages (March 1994) / Ballantine Books (Trd Pap);
Chronicles women's patented inventions, beginning with the first patent obtained by a woman (in 1809). Discusses some of the economic, political, and social obstacles, and sets the women and their inventions in historical context.

Women Invent: Two Centuries of Discoveries That Have Shaped Our World
by Susan Casey /
Paperback - 144 pages (October 1997) / Chicago Review Press
These inspiring stories of women inventors take the reader on a step-by-step journey through the process of inventing.
The Calculating Passion of Ada Byron (Limited availability)
by Joan Baum / Hardcover: 133 pages / Archon Books (December, 1986)
August Ada
Byron has recently gained fame for her explanatory notes on Charles Babbage's analytical engine, which constitute the first explanation of the concept of computer programming. This treatment of her life is well documented, portrays an intriguing time period for would-be women scientists, and presents an unusual viewpoint.
The Bride of Science: Romance, Reason, and Byron's Daughter (Limited availability)
by Benjamin Woolley / Paperback: 432 pages / Publisher: McGraw-Hill Co.Reprint edition (2002)
Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace, daughter of the poet Lord Byron, was one of the most fascinating women of the 19th century. In collaboration with Charles Babbage, inventor of the mechanical "thinking machine" that anticipated by more than a century the invention of the computer.

ON THE SCREEN:
Computers
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / History Channel / Less than $25.00 / Also VHS
The incredible breakthroughs and refinements that have marked the development of the computer are so familiar that they have lost some of their power to amaze


ON THE WEB:

Ada Byron, Ladt Lovelace
After she wrote the description of Babbage's Analytical Engine her life was plagued with illnesses, and her social life, in addition to Charles Babbage, included Sir David Brewster (the originator of the kaleidoscope), Charles Wheatstone, Charles Dickens and Michael Faraday. Contributed by Dr. Betty Toole, author of Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers
(URL: www.agnesscott.edu/lriddle/women/love.htm)
First Computer Program
In the annotations, which were called "Notes", Ada Lovelace described how the Analytical Engine could be programmed and gave what many consider to be the first ever computer program. Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson
(URL: www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Lovelace.html)
Lovelace Links Page
A selection of web pages related to Lovelace , Babbage and the computer. Presented by the Geometry, the online learning center.
(URL: www.geometry.net/scientists/lovelace_augusta_ada.php)

Who Was Ada Augusta Lovelace
From the Association for Women in Computing
(URL: www.awc-hq.org/lovelace/whowas.htm)
The First Computer Programmer
When inspired Ada could be very focused and a mathematical taskmaster. Ada suggested to Babbage writing a plan for how the engine might calculate Bernoulli numbers. This plan, is now regarded as the first "computer program."
(URL: www.cs.yale.edu/homes/tap/Files/ada-bio.html)
The Ada Picture Gallery
This page contains a lot of Ada related pictures. They are organized in three sections depending on whether the image is related to the Ada programming language, to Lady Augusta Ada Byron, or to none of these.
(URL: www.cs.kuleuven.ac.be/~dirk/ada-belgium/pictures.html)
Augusta Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace
At 17, Ada was introduced to Mary Somerville, a prominent mathematician in England and one of the few successful females in the field. At a dinner party at Mrs. Somerville's, Ada heard of Charles Babbage's ideas for a new calculating engine, which he called the Analytical Engine (a computer).
(URL: www.walrus.com/~gibralto/acorn/germ/Ada.html)

The First Computer Programmer
Ada Lovelace is best known as the first computer programmer. She wrote about Charles Babbage's "Analytical Engine" with such clarity and insight that her work became the premier text explaining the process now known as computer programming.
(URL: www.aimsedu.org/Math_History/Samples/ADA/Ada.html)

Augusta Ada Lovelace Award
Presented by Association for Women in Computing
(URL: www.awc-hq.org/lovelace/whowas.htm)
History of Software
A short introduction and perspective on software. Some examples of early types of software and their development. Explanation of some software jargon and a general introduction to programming. Editor: Jan Bakker for the History of Computing Project.
(URL: www.thocp.net/software/software.htm)
Another Opinion
In 1833 Ada met Charles Babbage and was fascinated with both him and his Engines. Later Ada became a competent student of mathematics, which was most unusual for a woman at the time. (URL: www.ex.ac.uk/BABBAGE/ada.html)

WORDS OF WISDOM:
"If you are as fastidious about the acts of your friendship as you are about those of your pen, I much fear I shall equally lose your friendship and your Notes. I am very reluctant to return your admirable & philosophic 'Note A.' Pray do not alter it . . . All this was impossible for you to know by intuition and the more I read your notes the more surprised I am at them and regret not having earlier explored so rich a vein of the noblest metal." - Charles Babbage upon reading Ada's notes in 1843

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Augusta Ada Byron 's father was the famous poet Lord George Gordon Byron and her mother was Anne Isabelle Milbanke.
  • Both Augusta Ada Lovelace and her famous father the poet Lord Byron died at the age of 36
  • Her social circle of friends, in addition to Charles Babbage, included Sir David Brewster (the originator of the kaleidoscope), Charles Wheatstone, Charles Dickens and Michael Faraday.
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Reference Sources in BOLD Type. This page revised November 23, 2005.
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