Continuing our recognition of great women in history, please enjoy this post on Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace…
Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace, was born today, December 10, in 1815. Her determined mother spearheaded Ada’s rigorous education, which focused on music, mathematics, and science. The learning stuck, and paid off.
In 1833, the young Ada met an English math professor at Cambridge University named Charles Babbage. Despite their more than 25 year age difference, they were intellectual peers and became fast friends. Babbage, who would become known as ‘the father of computers’, corresponded with Ada for the next two decades, during which time he invented what was called the ‘Analytical Engine’.
In 1843, Babbage asked Ada to translate a description of his engine for an Italian military engineer. Over the next nine months, she did just that…and more. In addition to providing a literal translation, she added her own set of notes which was three times longer than the actual translation. Her notes included some of Babbage’s own calculations in which she found errors, made note of, and corrected.
She also possessed vision, describing how this ‘Analytical Engine’ could be used to calculate a sequence of figures, then proved the calculation by diagramming the computations that the machine would make. In short, she had written the first computer algorithm. She also saw the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating, but also articulated how individuals and society might relate to technology as a collaborative tool.
In spite of all her accomplishments, the countess was born under a dark star. The only legitimate child of the notorious poet Lord Byron, she, too, died young, at the age of 36.
Ada is considered by many to be the first author of a computer program, despite having lived a century before the invention of the modern computer. In 1953, more than a century after her death, Ada’s notes on Babbage’s Analytical Engine were republished. The ‘engine’ has now been acknowledged as a prototype for a computer. Her notes are now regarded as the first description of a computer and software.
Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace, was a pioneer in computing. She championed the new technology that would shape the future.
If you want to join the increasing number of women innovators in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields, consider the work of Ada Byron King.
.“My comprehension can only be an infinitesimal fraction of all I want to understand.” – Ada Byron King.