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Ada Lovelace, The Mother of Computer Science

With a degree in history, I enjoy researching and writing about historical events that the history books tend to gloss over.

ada-lovelace-the-mother-of-computer-science

Do Not Become Lord Byron!

Lovelace was born to the poet Lord Byron and Baroness Anne Isabella Noel Byron as Augusta Ada Byron. Not wishing her daughter to follow in the footsteps of her father, she ensured that young Ada was taught mathematics and science. While such subjects were uncommon for girls during that time, her mother insisted. Young Ada demonstrated a particular talent for numbers and languages. Ada’s tutors included the family doctor, William King, a social reformer, William Frend, and a Scottish astronomer and mathematician, Mary Somerville who had been the first woman admitted to the Royal Astronomical Society.

ada-lovelace-the-mother-of-computer-science

Meeting Charles Babbage

Ada met Charles Babbage when she was seventeen. Babbage was a mathematician and inventor who became Ada’s mentor. Under his guidance, she began to study advanced mathematics with Professor Augustus de Morgan from the University of London. Babbage has been called the Father of the Computer and had invented the difference engine which was intended to perform mathematical calculations. Ada was fascinated with his work. As such, when asked to translate an article about the machine for a Swiss Journal, she not only translated it, but added her own forward-thinking thoughts and ideas regarding writing, including the addition of coding. “The engine can arrange and combine its numerical quantities exactly as if they were letters or any other general symbols.” An English Science journal later published the work in 1843. Unfortunately, she was too far ahead of her time and her ideas attracted little attention during her lifetime.

ada-lovelace-the-mother-of-computer-science

Enigma Machine vs Analytical Machine

Alan Turing, Famous for his Enigma Machine, wrote a paper challenging Ada Lovelace’s theory that “The Analytical Engine has no pretensions whatever to originate anything. It can do whatever we know how to order it to perform.” He believed that a computer could be programmed to produce answers that were unpredictable. While her work was far too advanced to be relevant during her life, modern programmers understand her work. Many a computer programmer echoes her early concerns of the need to “reduce to a minimum the time necessary for completing the calculation”.

ada-lovelace-the-mother-of-computer-science

Faster Than Thought

Lovelace's contributions to the field of computer science were re-discovered in the 1950s. Her notes were reintroduced to the world by B.V. Bowden. He republished them in Faster Than Thought: A Symposium on Digital Computing Machines in 1953. Since then, Ada has earned many posthumous honors for her work. In 1980, the U.S. Department of Defense named a newly created computer language "Ada," after Lovelace. Numerous Computer Societies have also created Adad Lovelace awards and medals.

References

Biography.com Editors, Ada Lovelace Biography, A&E Television Networks, https://www.biography.com/scholar/ada-lovelace.

Lovelace, Turing and the Invention of Computers, Science Museum, https://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/objects-and-stories/lovelace-turing-and-invention-computers.

"Mrs. Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace". IT History Society. 21 December 2015. Retrieved 21 December 2017.

Hollings, Christopher, et.al., Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist, Oxford: Bodleian Library Publishing.

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