Ada Lovelace 1815 – 1852

Mathematician and Computer Programmer


Ada Lovelace taught herself how to use a mechanical computer, called the Analytical Engine.

After working with the machine, she realized that letters could be represented as numbers and manipulated as in a word processor. It could also be made to play music, provided you could write the code!


Ada was born Augusta Ada Byron, daughter of Lord Byron the poet, and her mother Lady Byron.

Ada had almost no contact with her mother during her early life, with Ada being raised by her grandmother, who did not feel that girls needed to be educated.

Young Ada


Nevertheless, her mother did insist Ada was educated, especially in mathematics and the sciences. As the universities at the time would not admit female students, all of Ada's education was by private tutors.


Because of her social position, she was able to meet Professor Babbage of the University of Cambridge, who invited Ada to see the design of his calculating machine, which was to be driven by steam.


Steam Engine

This steam-driven machine, to be called a Difference Engine, captivated the 17year old Ada, and later she asked Babbage for a copy of the design, for her to study and learn how it was going to work.

Ada and her mother decided they needed to find out how steam could be made to drive a machine, by going to an engineering company. This was learning the basics of the world of steam engines.


She also got to meet with Mary Somerville, the recognized accomplished mathematician. Mary was able to discuss Ada's ideas, and offer suggestions for further study in mathematics and how to proceed with the Difference Engine.

Before the age of 20 years, Ada married William King, the Earle of Lovelace, and in the next 3 years, they produced 3 children.


 Ada Lovelace

In the meantime, Babbage had produced a design for a new version, called the Analytical Engine.

This machine would have storage, or a memory, and could do loops and branching.



A replica of the original Analytical Engine


Ada was very enthusiastic about this machine, and soon became an expert in how it could be used.

She quickly realized that if the letters of the alphabet could be represented by numbers, the machine would be able to manipulate words, as in a word processor. She could also see that music could be made and played similarly, provided you can write the code.

It would no doubt do arithmetic as well!



 The Internal Mechanism

Ada was a visionary, an original computer programmer.

Babbage described her as “an enchantress of numbers”.

In recognition of the pioneering work done by Ada Lovelace, when a new universal programming language was developed in the twentieth century it was called Ada.

Ada died after a year or two of severe pain, presumed to be cancer.


Click here to Acknowledge a pioneer.

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