Ada Lovelace has often been called the very first Computer Programmer, and thanks to her algorithm the internet could be created almost 180 years later.
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Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852), born Augusta Ada Byron, was an English writer chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage's early mechanical general-purpose computer, the analytical engine. Her notes on the engine include what is recognised as the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine; as such she is sometimes portrayed in popular culture as the "World's First Computer Programmer".
Ada Augusta Byron was born on December 10, 1815. She was the only child of the George Gordon, 6th (otherwise known as the preeminent Romantic poet Lord Byron) and his wife, Anne Isabella "Annabella" Milbanke, Baroness Wentworth. Byron expected that the baby would be "the glorious boy", and there was some disappointment at the contrary news. The child was named after Byron's half-sister, Augusta Leigh, and was called "Ada" by Byron himself.
On 16 January 1816, Annabella, at Byron's behest, left for her parents' home at Kirkby Mallory taking one-month-old Lovelace with her. Although English law gave fathers full custody of their children in cases of separation, Byron made no attempt to claim his parental rights. On 21 April, Byron signed the Deed of Separation, although very reluctantly, and left England for good a few days later. Byron did not have a relationship with his daughter and he died in 1824 when she was nine; her mother was the only significant parental figure in her life. Her mother, Annabella, became Baroness Wentworth in her own right in 1856, being then the sole remaining representative of the Wentworth Viscounts.
Lovelace was often ill, dating from her early childhood. At the age of eight she experienced headaches that obscured her vision. In June 1829, she was paralysed after a bout of the measles. She was subjected to continuous bed rest for nearly a year, which may have extended her period of disability. By 1831 she was able to walk with crutches.
Throughout her illnesses, Lovelace continued her education. Her mother's obsession with rooting out any of the insanity of which she accused Lord Byron was one of the reasons that Lovelace was taught mathematics from an early age. Lovelace was privately schooled in mathematics and science by William Frend, William King and Mary Somerville. One of her later tutors was the noted mathematician and logician Augustus De Morgan. From 1832, when she was seventeen, her remarkable mathematical abilities began to emerge, and her interest in mathematics dominated her life even after her marriage. In a letter to Lovelace's mother, De Morgan suggested that Lovelace's skill in mathematics could lead her to become "an original mathematical investigator, perhaps of first-rate eminence".
Rise to fame
In 1842 Charles Babbage was invited to give a seminar at the University of Turin about his analytical engine. Luigi Menabrea, a young Italian engineer, and future prime minister of Italy, wrote up Babbage's lecture in French, and this transcript was subsequently published in the Bibliothèque Universelle de Genève in October 1842.
Babbage asked the Countess of Lovelace to translate Menabrea's paper into English, subsequently requesting that she augment the notes she had added to the translation. Lady Lovelace spent most of a year doing this. These notes, which are more extensive than Menabrea's paper, were then published in The Ladies' Diary and Taylor's Scientific Memoirs under the initialism "AAL".
In 1953, over one hundred years after her death, Lady Lovelace's notes on Babbage's Analytical Engine were republished. The engine has now been recognised as an early model for a computer and Lady Lovelace's notes as a description of a computer and software.
Her notes were labeled alphabetically from A to G. In note G, the Countess describes an algorithm for the analytical engine to compute Bernoulli numbers. It is considered the first algorithm ever specifically tailored for implementation on a computer, and for this reason she is often cited in popular culture to be the first computer programmer. However, some authorities disagree with this perspective, as the analytical engine was a mechanical, rather than electronic, design for a computer and was never actually constructed to completion during Lovelace's lifetime. It has also been argued that the algorithm itself was not a program as such, and that Lovelace's notes were a continuation of Babbage's original work.
The computer language Ada, created on behalf of the United States Department of Defense, was named after Lovelace. The reference manual for the language was approved on 10 December 1980, and the Department of Defense Military Standard for the language, "MIL-STD-1815", was given the number of the year of her birth. Since 1998, the British Computer Society has awarded a medal in her name and in 2008 initiated an annual competition for women students of computer science.
Lovelace died at the age of thirty-six, on 27 November 1852, from uterine cancer and bloodletting by her physicians. She was buried, at her request, next to her father at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottingham.
"In almost every computation a great variety of arrangements for the succession of the processes is possible, and various considerations must influence the selections amongst them for the purposes of a calculating engine. One essential object is to choose that arrangement which shall tend to reduce to a minimum the time necessary for completing the calculation."
"Many persons who are not conversant with mathematical studies imagine that because the business of [Babbage’s Analytical Engine] is to give its results in numerical notation, the nature of its processes must consequently be arithmetical and numerical, rather than algebraical and analytical. This is an error. The engine can arrange and combine its numerical quantities exactly as if they were letters or any other general symbols; and in fact it might bring out its results in algebraical notation, were provisions made accordingly."