Lady Ada Augusta Byron – The World’s First Programmer
Lady Ada Augusta Byron, Countess of Lovelace was born on December 10, 1815 as the daughter of English poet Lord Byron and Annabelle Milbanke. She was engaged in mathematics and was interested in an analytical machine project. She helped in documenting the work of this machine as well as in working on it – both financially and with its proposals, the most important of which was the transfer of control and work with cycles, so that the program commands should not be executed in the order they were given already depending on the flow program. She also anticipated the possibility of this machine for more general things (composing music, graphics), but also for wider scientific applications. She suggested that the Bernoulli numbers be calculated using an analytical machine. This plan is also considered the first program, and Ada Lovelace was the first programmer. Ada is certanly of the most interesting figure in the history of informatics.
Ada Augusta Byron was born on December 10, 1815 in London. She was the daughter of British poet Lord Byron and his wife Annabelle Milbanke, Lady Byron. When she was five months old, her parents divorced. In April 1816, Lord Byron went abroad, where he died. Although Ada did not meet her father, she was very similar to him in appearance and in nature. Her mother did not want her daughter to become a poet, so she tried to do everything to prevent it from happening. Lady Byron was interested in mathematics and science, and she tried to make Ada’s education consistent with her interests. Ada learned mathematics, neglecting areas of her father’s profession: poetry and literature. Even as a young woman, she showed extreme mathematical skills, and her mother supported it with enthusiasm. Ada had a lot of tutors, she was taught by Ms Lamont at age six, but when her mother learned that Ada preferred arithmetic geography, Miss Lamont was replaced by a new tutor. Sir William Frend continued to teach Ada. She was ill from mysterious illness for 13 years and could not walk for three years. During that time she continued to studz, and soon surpassed expectations in mathematics, and became a great linguist and musician.
The person Ada really wanted to meet was Mary Somerville, who was the first woman to be a member of the Royal Astronomical Society and a recognized mathematician. And soon after thez met, Ada and Marz bacame friends. Mrs Somerville introduced Ada with her future husband, Lord William King. At one of the parties hosted by Mary Somerville, Ada met Charles Babbage, a highly respected professor of mathematics. She was deeply impressed by Charles’s ideas of a new calculating machine, the so-called analytical machine, and he too remained stunned by Ada’s intelligence.
At age of nineteen, Ada married William King, who soon became the Earl of Lovelace. They had a harmonious marriage even though Ada was intellectually superior. Their three children, two sons and a daughter who went to their mother’s steps, were mostly raised by her mother and her husband William, who was proud of his wife’s achievements and always supported her.
In 1842, Babbagge was invited to hold a seminar at the University of Turin, Italy, on the subject of an analytical machine. Babbagge asked Ada to translate his lectures, so that more people could understand. While translating, she added her own notes and soon the translation was three times longer. In the notes, she emphasized the difference between Pascal’s machine, which could be compared with today’s calculator, and Babbagge’s machine, which can be compared with modern computers. The notes were marked with letters A to G. In the last, G note, Ada describes an algorithm for an analytical machine for the calculation of Bernoulli numbers. It is considered to be the first algorithm ever made with the idea to be applied on a computer, and for this reason she is considered the first computer programmer.
It focused on what we could call today “software” applications for the analytical machine. In this sense, Eydda can be called the true visionary, as she could have predicted that Babbigge’s machine will have enormous applications in the field of graphics, artificial intelligence, and in composing complex music. At the end of her work, she was signed as ALL, because it was unacceptable for women of several classes of that time to deal with any scientific writings.
Ada was twenty-nine when her work was published and she gave birth to a third child. However, she suffered a mental breakdown. The doctors prescribed her with a combination of drugs and alcohol that is now considered deadly. Just few months after her breakdown, Ada was diagnosed with uterine cancer.
The government lost faith in her’s and Babbigge’s work, and so it was left out for financial resources and they were left with incomplete differential machine. Although Babbigge managed to get out of debt, Ada was not that lucky. In order to repay her debts, she had to pawn family jewelry. Her husband tried in vain to deal with her creditors and a bunch of scandals that surrounded her.
She died of cancer at age of thirty-six years. At her own request, she was buried next to her father in Hucknall Torkard, a church in Nottinghamshire. In 1979, as a reward for her contribution, the US Department of Defense developed a programming language and named it Ada (Ada). During her lifetime, she collaborated with Sir David Brewster, creator of kaleidoscope, Charles Dickens, and Michael Faraday.
Ada Lovelace crossed the boundary of the stereotypical role of a woman and was one of the pioneers in computer research and programming. Although her life was short, and lived a hundred and fifty years ago, she saw most of what is now considered modern computing.