Ada Lovelace Over One Hundred Years Ahead of Her Time
In the early 1800s, Ada Lovelace predicted computer technology capable of performing calculations, creating graphics, composing music, and practical and scientific uses.
December 10, 1815 saw the birth of perhaps the most remarkable woman of the 19th century. Her name was August Ada Byron, the daughter of Lord Byron. A little over a month after she was born her father and mother separated and Ada’s mother had sole custody. Ada’s mother was certain of one thing; her daughter would not grow up to be a poet like her father but a woman well versed in mathematics and science.
During her youth, Ada had many tutors, some lasting only a very short time before termination by Ada’s mother. If Lady Byron believed a tutor wasn’t presenting a strong enough base of math and science, or was spending too much time in the arts, they were fired.
Timeline for Ada Byron
When she was 17, Ada Byron made the acquaintance of Mrs. Mary Somerville. Mrs. Somerville encouraged Ada’s interest in mathematics and science but also tried to keep the young woman grounded in society as well. This association was to prove pivotal in the future of the young Ada Byron.
- In 1835, Ada married William King and became Ada King.
- While at a dinner party at the Somerville home (November 1835), Ada heard of Charles Babbage and his Analytical Engine for the first time. The idea of a machine that could make calculations and then act upon those calculations immediately captivated the young Ada.
- William and Ada King became the Earl and Countess of Lovelace in 1838.
- In 1841, Charles Babbage presented a seminar in Turin, Italy concerning his plans for a new engine.
- Luigi F. Menabrea published his notes and a sketch of the Analytical Engine in 1842. His notes were in French.
- Menabrea’s notes are translated and expanded upon by Ada Lovelace in 1843, where she described how the Analytical Engine could be programmed.
- Babbage and Lady Lovelace began a correspondence at this time that was filled with suggestions, speculations, facts, theories, and more. Her commentaries helped Babbage solidify his own ideas on his engine.
- By 1844, Ada’s work was seriously affected by her declining health. She developed what was referred to as “consumption.” It was cancer. In 1852, Lady Lovelace died at the young age of 36 leaving her husband and three children.
In her short life her efforts in the development of programming and computer theory earned her a place in the history books. Many consider her the “Mother of Computer Programming.” Dr. Betty Alexanda Toole, compiler of Ada’s letters, refers to her as “The Enchantress of Numbers.” In 1979, the United States Department of Defense named its universal computer programming language “Ada,” in honor of her contributions.
What the world today sees as exciting new ideas in computing was foreseen by a young woman in England over 150 years ago.