Byron, Lady Lovelace, was one of the most picturesque characters in computer history.
August Ada Byron was born on 10 December 1815 the daughter of the illustrious
poet, Lord Byron. Five weeks after Ada was born Lady Byron asked for a separation
from Lord Byron, and was awarded sole custody of Ada who she brought up to be
a mathematician and scientist. Lady Byron was terrified that Ada might end up
being a poet like her father. Despite Lady Byron's programming Ada did not sublimate
her poetical inclinations. She hoped to be "an analyst and a metaphysician". In
her 30's she wrote her mother, if you can't give me poetry, can't you give me
"poetical science?" Her understanding of mathematics was laced with imagination,
and described in metaphors.
At the age of 17 Ada was introduced to Mary Somerville,
a remarkable woman who translated Laplace's works into English, and whose texts
were used at Cambridge. 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". Hardly
anyone else was.
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, Menabrea, wrote a summary of what Babbage described and published
an article in French about the development. Ada, in 1843, married to the Earl
of Lovelace and the mother of three children under the age of eight, 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 was correct.
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." A software language
developed by the US Department of Defense was named "Ada" in her honor in 1979.
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. Her interests ranged
from music to horses to calculating machines. Ada anticipated by more than a century
most of what we think is brand-new computing.
Augusta Ada King,
Countess of Lovelace was born on 10 December 1815 in Piccadilly, Middlesex (now
in London), England. She died on 27 November 1852 in Marylebone, London, England
Lady Ada Lovelace's father was Lord Byron, the
famous poet. Her parents separated soon after her birth and she never knew either
of them. She was educated by private tutors, advanced study in mathematics being
provided by De
Morgan. She became Countess of Lovelace when her husband William King, whom
she married in 1835, was created an Earl in 1838. In 1833 Augusta became interested
analytic engine. Ten years later she produced an annotated translation of Menabrea's
Notions sur la machine analytique de Charles Babbage (1842). In the annotations
she describes how the Analytical Engine could be programmed to compute Bernoulli
numbers. She described the Analytical Engine saying the Analytical Engine weaves
algebraic patterns, just as the Jacquard-loom weaves flowers and leaves.