|Born||Dec. 10, 1815
|Died||Nov. 27, 1852 (at age 36)
Marylebone, London, England
Daughter of famed poet Lord Byron, Ada Lovelace was a famous English writer and mathematician. She is best known for her great work on the Analytical Engine. Most of her notes on this engine include what in now known as the first algorithm that can be processed by machine. Due to this work, she is often referred to as the world’s first ever computer programmer.
Ada’s Early Life
Ada was born on December 10, 1815, as the only legitimate child of Lord Byron and his wife. All the other children fathered by Byron were born out of wedlock. Ada’s parents separated one month after she was born and Lord Byron left England for good a few months later.
Ada was only eight years old when her mother began promoting her interests in mathematics. Her mother was still very bitter after what her father did and therefore encouraged Ada to study mathematics in order to curb the insanity seen in her father.
Ada was often ill ever since her early childhood. When she turned eight, she experienced headaches that obscured her vision. In June of 1829, she was paralyzed and was subject to continuous bed rest for almost a year. This may have extended her period of disability. By 1831, she was able to walk with crutches.
Young Adult Years
Despite the illness, she still developed her technological and mathematical skills. As a young adult, her mathematical talents brought her closer to Charles Babbage, a British mathematician. At 12 years old, Ada decided she wanted to fly. She went about her project methodically and thoughtfully with great imagination and passion. Her very first step was in 1828 when she constructed wings. She investigated several different types of materials and sizes to ensure the best possible outcome for her project.
In 1833, Ada was romantically involved with a tutor and after being caught, she tried to elope with him. However, the tutor’s relatives recognized her and contacted her mother before the eloping occurred.
Ada Lovelace developed a very strong relationship with her tutor, Mary Somerville. She had great respect for her and the two corresponded for many years. In 1834, Ada was already a regular at Court and she attended numerous events. On July 8, she married William King, therefore becoming Baroness King. The couple had three children together. In the 1840s, Ada’s life was full of scandals due to rumors of her having affairs and also gambling. Her love for gambling led to a formation of a syndicate, which was an ambitious attempt to create a mathematical model for making successful large bets.
Lovelace’s Work in Mathematics
Throughout her life, Ada Lovelace was very interested in developments and fads of the day, including mesmerism and phrenology. After her famous work with Babbage, she still worked on other projects. In 1844, she talked about her desire to create a mathematical model for how the brain gives rise to thought and how nerves create feelings.
This was never achieved and later, she visited Andrew Crosse. Andrew was an electrical engineer and Ada visited him to learn how to carry out different electrical experiments. During this time, she also wrote a review of a paper entitled Researches on Magnetism by Karl von Reichenbach. However, this was not published. In 1851, one year before she was diagnosed with cancer, she wrote to her mother to discuss certain productions she was working on in regard to the relation between music and mathematics.
The First Computer Program
In 1842, Babbage was invited to the University of Turin to give a lecture about the analytical engine. Mr. Luigi Menabrea, who was then a young engineer, wrote up his lecture in French. Lovelace was later commissioned to translate this paper into English.
In 1953, over 100 years after her death, Ada’s notes on this engine were published. The engine is now recognized as an early model for a computer. Basically, her notes are a description of a computer and software. Her notes were all labeled alphabetically starting from A all the way to G. In her note labeled G, she clearly explained more about an algorithm for this analytical engine that could compute Bernoulli numbers. This is considered the first ever algorithm that is specially tailored for the implementation on computer.
Ada Lovelace died on November 27, 1852. She was 36 years and the cause of her death was uterine cancer.