Ada Lovelace : biography
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852), born Augusta Ada Byron and now commonly known as Ada Lovelace, was an English mathematician and writer chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage’s early mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Her notes on the engine include what is recognized as the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine. Because of this, she is often considered the world’s first computer programmer…
She was born 10 December 1815 as the only legitimate child to the poet Lord Byron and his wife Anne Isabella Byron – all of his other children were born out of wedlock. Byron separated from his wife a month after Ada was born and left England forever four months later, eventually dying of disease in the Greek War of Independence when Ada was eight years old. Ada’s mother remained bitter at Lord Byron and promoted Ada’s interest in mathematics and logic in an effort to prevent her from developing what she saw as insanity in her father, but she remained interested in him despite this (and was, upon her eventual death, buried next to him at her request).
She referred to herself as a "poetical scientist" and "an Analyst (& Metaphysician)".. As a young adult, her mathematical talents led her to an ongoing working relationship and friendship with fellow British mathematician Charles Babbage, and in particular Babbage’s work on the analytical engine. Between 1842 and 1843, she translated an article by Italian military engineer Luigi Menabrea on the engine, which she supplemented with an elaborate set of notes of her own, simply called Notes. These notes contain what is considered the first computer program – that is, an algorithm encoded for processing by a machine. Lovelace’s notes are important in the early history of computers. She also developed a vision on the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching while others, including Babbage himself, focused only on those capabilities.
In popular culture
Lovelace has been portrayed in the 1990 steam punk novel The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, the 1997 film Conceiving Ada, and in John Crowley’s 2005 novel Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land, where she is featured as an unseen character whose personality is forcefully depicted in her annotations and anti-heroic efforts to archive her father’s lost novel.
Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle, by Vladimir Nabokov, includes a non ambiguous hint to Ada Lovelace when referring to one of its main characters named Ada ("Ada was transformed into a sort of graceful computing machine, endowed, moreover, with phenomenal luck, and would greatly surpass baffled Van in acumen, foresight and exploitation of chance…")
Thomasina Coverly, a central character in Tom Stoppard’s 1993 play Arcadia, is based on Ada Lovelace.
In comics, Lovelace appears in Sydney Padua’s webcomic 2D Goggles.
Named after Ada Lovelace
The computer language Ada, created on behalf of the United States Department of Defense, was named after Ada Lovelace. The reference manual for the language was approved on 10 December 1980, and the Department of Defense Military Standard for the language, "MIL-STD-1815", was given the number of the year of her birth. Since 1998, the British Computer Society has awarded a medal in her name and in 2008 initiated an annual competition for women students of computer science.
The village computer center in the village of Porlock, near where Ada Lovelace lived, is named after her. There is a building in the small town of Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire named "Ada Lovelace House".
"Ada Lovelace Day" is an annual event celebrated in mid-October whose goal is to "raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and maths".
The Ada Initiative is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the involvement of women in the free culture and open source movements.