Born December 10, 1815, Ada Byron was the daughter of poet Lord Byron. Shortly after her birth, Lady Byron, her mother, asked for a separation from her husband and was given sole custody of Ada. Lady Byron was terrified that her daughter might become a poet, so she encouraged her daughter to become a mathematician and scientist.
In 1834, Ada was introduced to a researcher named Charles Babbage at a dinner party, who spoke to Ada about a “new calculating engine,” a machine, he said, that could not only foresee but also act on that foresight. Babbage continued to work on his plans for this Analytical Engine, and he reported on its development at a seminar in Italy in the autumn of 1841. Menabrea, an Italian, summarized a summary of what Babbage described and published an article on it in French.
Two years later, Ada, now the wife of the Earl of Lovelace and the mother of three small children, translated Menabrea’s article into English. When Babbage saw her translation, he told her she should add her own words to the article—the size of which was three times the length of the original article. After communicating further with him, Ada published her own article in 1843, which included her prediction that a machine could be developed to compose complex music and produce graphics, among other practical and scientific uses. She also suggested to Babbage that he should write a document on how the Analytical Engine could determine Bernoulli numbers, which he did—a document now regarded as the first computer program. In her honor, a programming language is named Ada.
See Also: Babbage, Charles; Programming Languages C, C++, Perl, and Java.
Schell, B.H., Dodge, J.L., with S.S. Moutsatsos. The Hacking of America: Who’s Doing It, Why, and How. Westport, CT: Quorum Books, 2002.