Remembering Ada Lovelace : The Enchantress of Numbers

Some of you might know her as the first computer programmer and some of you might totally reject that title, and some of you might not even know about her. Ada Lovelace, touted by most as the first computer programmer ever was born to Lord Byron (yes, that Lord Byron) and Anne Isabella Milbanke, Lady of Wentworth in the year 1815 in London. So how did the daughter of such a famous poet become a computer programmer and that too in the Victorian era where ladies weren’t encouraged to pursue careers in science but above all, how did she write a computer programme almost a century before the first known computer was invented?

­­­­­Lovelace was born Ada Byron. Her father, notorious for well, many things, separated from her mother a month after Ada was born. Her mother, enraged and bitter because of Byron’s tendencies asked her to stay away from “dangerous poetic tendencies”. Although very unusual for ladies of that era, Ada had a very rational and scientific upbringing.  A young Ada first met Charles Babbage in 1833. Babbage, who invented the Analytical Engine, at that time was engrossed in his work to bring the engine to life that he envisioned. Between 1842-1843 Lovelace worked on Babbage’s proposed idea of the Analytical Engine and attached some notes of her own.  Explaining the Analytical Engine, especially to Victorian British Officials was no easy task, but Ada’s notes were very well received later and as well as by her contemporaries.  In 1953, more than a century after Ada’s death, her notes were republished and the algorithm that she described to compute Bernoulli Numbers was said to be the first published algorithm ever.

Lovelace wasn’t just a gifted mathematician, but she was also exceptionally ahead of her time. Without her notes, computers as we know them today might not exist. Today, Lovelace is a considered a pioneer in computer programming and hailed as an inspiration for women who want to be computer programmers.

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