Ada Lovelace Day

October 15 marks Ada Lovelace day - celebrating women in science, technology, engineering and maths.

Ada Lovelace, born in 1815, the daughter of poet Lord Byron and his mathematics-loving wife Annabella Milbanke, is considered to have been the first computer programmer.

In 1833 when she was 18, Lovelace’s mentor, the scientist and polymath Mary Sommerville, introduced her to Professor of Mathematics, Charles Babbage who had been working on plans for gigantic clockwork calculating machines. Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace both had unconventional personalities and became lifelong friends. Babbage described her as having “thrown her magical spell around the most abstract of Sciences and has grasped it with a force which few masculine intellects could have exerted over it”.

Lovelace was intrigued by Babbage's design for an Analytical Engine, which had all the essential elements of the modern computer. In 1842 she translated a description of it by Italian mathematician, Luigi Menabrea into English. Babbage asked her to expand the article, “as she understood [it] so well”. Her final article is over three times the length of the original and contains several early ‘computer programs’, as well as strikingly prescient observations on the potential uses of the machine, including the manipulation of symbols and creation of music. Although Babbage and his assistants had sketched out programs for his engine before, Lovelace’s are the most elaborate and complete, and the first to be published. 

Ada, we salute you.


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