Women's History: Ada Byron Lovelace

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (10 December 1815, London – 27 November 1852, Marylebone, London), born Augusta Ada Byron, was the only legitimate child of poet Lord Byron. She is widely known in modern times simply as Ada Lovelace.

Lovelace was one of the most charming personalities in computer history. She is known as a British mathematician, musician, and is best known as the first computer programmer. She wrote about Charles Babbage’s “Analytical Engine”, explaining the process with such clarity and precision that her work became the leading text explaining the process now known as computer programming. A software language that was developed in 1979 by the U.S. Department of Defense was named Ada in her honor.

When she was seventeen years old, Ada met Mrs. Somerville, a remarkable woman who had just published a book on mathematical astronomy, “The Mechanism of the Heavens.” This woman became a mentor to Ada and while she encouraged the young lady in her mathematical studies, she also tried to put mathematics and technology in a human context. It was Mrs. Somerville who arranged for Ada to meet Lord William King, Earl of Lovelace, who was to later become her husband.
Ada met Charles Babbage at a dinner party put on by Mrs. Somerville. It was here that she first heard of Mr. Babbages Analytical Engine and Ada was intrigued by his ideas. As his idea progressed in later years, Ada suggested to Babbage that a plan be written for how the engine might calculate Bernoulli numbers. He commissioned Ada to write that plan, and this very plan is now considered the first “computer program.”
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