10 Dec Ada Lovelace
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 recognised as the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine. Because of this, she is often considered the world’s first computer programmer.
Ada was the only legitimate child of the poet Lord Byron (with Anne Isabella Byron). She had no relationship with her father, who separated from her mother just a month after Ada was born, and four months later he left England forever and died in Greece in 1823 when she was eight. As a young adult, she took an interest in mathematics, and in particular Babbage’s work on the analytical engine. Between 1842 and 1843, she translated an article by Italian mathematician Luigi Menabrea on the engine, which she supplemented with a set of notes of her own. These notes contain what is considered the first computer program — that is, an algorithm encoded for processing by a machine. Ada’s notes are important in the early history of computers. She also foresaw the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching while others, including Babbage himself, focused only on these capabilities.
Today on the occasion of Lady Lovelace’s birthday, Google featured a doodle in her honour. Although some dispute her claims fo being the first programmer, it is nonetheless without any doubt that she was a remarkable lady in her own right and deserves all the plaudits that she is getting. Ada Lovelace day is celebrated every year in mid-October to encourage women participation in science. Lovelace is one of those few lady giants whose contributions outmask that of many great male scientists and thinkers. After Lovelace there have been many great women associated with computing, and it is believed and hoped that Lovelace’s legacy continues to grow.
Managing Editor of the English Section, Gonit Sora and Research Associate, Cardiff University, UK.