Ada Lovelace


Ada Lovelace : biography

10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852

Part of the terrace at Worthy Manor was known as "Philosopher’s Walk", as it was there that Ada and Babbage were reputed to have walked while discussing mathematical principles.

Controversy over extent of contributions

Though Ada Lovelace is often referred to as the first computer programmer, there is disagreement over the extent of her contributions, and whether she deserves to be called a programmer. Allan G. Bromley, in the 1990 essay "Difference and Analytical Engines", wrote, "All but one of the programs cited in her notes had been prepared by Babbage from three to seven years earlier. The exception was prepared by Babbage for her, although she did detect a "bug" in it. Not only is there no evidence that Ada ever prepared a program for the Analytical Engine, but her correspondence with Babbage shows that she did not have the knowledge to do so.". Curator and author Doron Swade, in his 2001 book The Difference Engine, wrote, "The first algorithms or stepwise operations leading to a solution—what we would now recognize as a ‘program’, although the word was used neither by her nor by Babbage—were certainly published under her name. But the work had been completed by Babbage much earlier.".

Historian Bruce Collier went further in his 1990 book The Little Engine That Could’ve, calling Ada not only irrelevant, but delusional: {}

Writer Benjamin Woolley would say that while Ada’s mathematical abilities have been contested, she can claim "some contribution": "Note A, the first she wrote and the one over which Babbage had the least influence, contains a sophisticated analysis of the idea and implications of mechanical computation" and that this discussion of the implications of Babbage’s invention was the most important aspect of her work. According to Woolley, her notes were "detailed and thorough [a]nd still… metaphysical, meaningfully so"; they were able to explain how the machine worked and "[rose] above the technical minutiae of Babbage’s extraordinary invention to reveal its true grandeur."

Babbage published the following on Ada’s contribution, in his Passages from the Life of a Philosopher (1864):

The "algebraic working out" Babbage describes is the derivation of the mathematical equations 1 through 9 in Note G, not the Table & Diagram in Note G showing punch card flow. The table, not the equations, is considered the first computer program. In Ada’s and Babbage’s letters to each other in 1843, the only contemporary documentation, Ada mentions finding and correcting errors in "our first edition of a Table & Diagram" (Ada frequently used "our" when discussing the Notes in letters with Babbage).



Ada Lovelace was born Augusta Ada Byron on 10 December 1815, the child of the poet George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, and Anne Isabella "Annabella" Milbanke, Baroness Byron. George Byron expected his baby to be "the glorious boy"; as such he was disappointed that his wife gave birth to a girl. Augusta was named after Byron’s half-sister, Augusta Leigh, and was called "Ada" by Byron himself.

On 16 January 1816, Annabella, at George’s behest, left for her parents’ home at Kirkby Mallory taking one-month-old Ada with her. Although English law gave fathers full custody of their children in cases of separation, Byron made no attempt to claim his parental rights but did request that his sister keep him informed of Ada’s welfare. On 21 April, Byron signed the Deed of Separation, although very reluctantly, and left England for good a few days later. Aside from an acrimonious divorce, Annabella continually throughout her life made allegations about Byron’s immoral behavior. This set of events made Ada famous in Victorian society. Byron did not have a relationship with his daughter, and he died in 1824 when she was eight years old. Her mother was the only significant parental figure in her life.. Ada would not even be able to view any portrait of her father until her twentieth birthday. Her mother became Baroness Wentworth in her own right in 1856.