Ada of Lovelace

[by user kbeard]

Quick Facts:
Date of Birth: December 10, 1815
Date of Death: November 27, 1852

Ada August Bryon was born in London on December 10, 1815 to the Lord and Lady Bryon. Ada's father was not a part of her life. The Lord and Lady Bryon were very different; he was a poet and very dramatic, while her mother preferred math and logic. Her parents were separated when Ada was little more than a month old, and Lady Bryon was awarded full custody of Ada.

Lady Bryon strongly disapproved of her poetic father, and encouraged Ada to pursue an academic route. Ada followed in the footsteps of her mother, who was an avid mathematician.

In her early teen years, Ada met another female mathematician, Mary Somerville, and the two remained life-long friends, often discussing various mathematical concepts. Through Somerville, Ada was introduced to Charles Babbage, a mathematician and inventor. At the time, 1833, Babbage was working on a basic computing device that he called the Difference Engine. Ada was fascinated by the engine, and Babbage was impressed by her intellect.

A year later, in 1834, Babbage made the outlines for an improved device, which he dubbed the Analytical Engine. However, because he had not yet finished the Difference Engine, the British Parliament would not fund his new project.

Meanwhile, Ada was living her own life. She married William King in the summer of 1835. Three years later, he inherited a nobility title, and they became the Earl and Countess of Lovelace. By 1839, she had two sons and one daughter.

Throughout all these years, Ada kept in written contact with Babbage. He was just coming to a breakthrough for his Analytical Engine. In 1840 the University of Turin, in Italy, gave him permission to lecture on his new machine in their halls. An Italian, L. Menebrea, wrote an article on the machine for the French magazine Bibliotheque Universelle de Geneve.

Ada was very interested in the subject, and wrote back and forth with Babbage about his machine. She became very well-informed about the Analytical Engine, and offered to translate Menebrea's article from French to English. The translation took about nine months, and during this time, she also added her own commentary at the end of the translation. The commentary, commonly referred to as the "Notes," was considerably longer than the original article, and consisted of several new ideas. The most famous of her ideas was a proposal on how the Analytical Engine could compute the Bernoulli numbers —this system is considered to be the first computer program. In addition, she recognized that such a computing device could progress past working with numbers, and produce music. A direct quote from her Notes states, "Supposing… musical composition were susceptible of such expression… the engine might compose… pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent." These were not the extent of the Notes: she also predicted that such a machine could follow a code of numbers and in turn produce letters and symbols.

Despite her Notes, along with the translation, being published in 1843, she did not have an effect on the development of computer science. Her ideas were not widely recognized, and were forgotten about until she was "rediscovered" in the mid-twentieth century. Later, in the early ‘80s, the United States Department of Defense honored her by naming a computer programming code "Ada."

Work Cited:

"Ada Bryon, Countess of Lovelace." San Diego Supercomputer Center. < /ScienceWomen/lovelace.html>

"Ada Lovelace." Wikipedia. <>

Falbo, Clement. "Augusta Ada Bryon, Countess of Lovelace." Online excerpt from Math Odyssey 2000. Sonoma State University. <>

Menabrea, Louis; Augusta, Ada. trans. by Augusta Ada of Lovelace. "Sketch of The Analytical Engine." October, 1842. No. 82. Bibliothèque Universelle de Genève. Online publication by John Walker. Fourmalib. <>

Thomas, Rachel. "Ada Lovelace - visions of today." +Plus magazine …living mathematics. March 2005. <>

Toole, Dr. Betty. "Ada Bryon, Lady Lovelace." Biographies of Women Mathematicians. Agnes Scott College. July 2008. Online publication by Larry Riddle. <>

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License