Ada Lovelace was a British poet and mathematician who lived in the first half of the 19th century. She was the daughter of one of Britain's greatest dramatists, Lord Byron. Although she did not know her father, she was buried next to him in the Byron family crypt at his request.
Lovelace created an algorithm that is considered the first computer program. She was a respected intellectual of her time, and her analytical skills were praised by many scientists. Charles Babbage, known as the "Father of Computing," called her the "Wizard of Numbers.
Her actual name was Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, and she was the only married daughter of Lord Byron, one of England's greatest poets and playwrights.
He became famous in London society for his affair with the future Prime Minister's wife, Caroline Lamb, and for his love of his half-sister, Augusta Leigh, who left her husband in 1811 and gave birth to a daughter in 1814. Byron's joy at the child's birth sparked speculation about his paternity.
To avoid scandal, Augusta persuaded Byron to "marry for convenience". He reluctantly agreed to marry Anna Isabella (Annabella) Milbanke, a cousin of Lady Caroline Lamb. A daughter, Ada, was born of this marriage.
The marriage of Byron and Annabella Milbanke was not a happy one. Shortly after the birth of their daughter, Annabella left Byron and moved with her daughter to live with her parents. English law at the time gave the father full custody of the child in the event of separation, but Byron did not assert his parental rights. He simply asked his sister to keep him informed of Ada's life.
Byron signed the deed of separation and left England for good a few days later.
Lord Byron died in 1824 when Ada was eight. She wasn't even shown a portrait of her father until her 20th birthday. Her mother was the only significant person in Ada's childhood, although she often left her in the care of her maternal grandmother.
Throughout her life, Lady Byron criticized George and accused him of living an immoral life. She tried to pass on this knowledge about her father to Ada.
At the age of eight, she suffered from severe headaches that rendered her unable to see. In June 1829, she contracted measles, which left her paralyzed. She was bedridden for nearly a year and later moved around on crutches.
Despite her illnesses, she developed her mathematical and engineering skills.
Ada showed an aptitude for poetry, but her mother tried to discourage her because she believed that poetry drove Byron mad. She tried to channel her daughter's interests into mathematics and logic.
She had private tutors in mathematics and physics. They were William Frend, Dr. William King, Mary Somerville, and the mathematician and logician Augustus De Morgan.
In early 1833, Ada had an affair with one of her tutors and tried to run away with him. The tutor's relatives recognized the girl and informed her mother. Lady Byron covered up the incident to avoid a public scandal.
In the 1840s, Ada Lovelace was involved in many scandals. She had a very cavalier attitude toward extramarital affairs, which were rumored to have taken place.
Somerville introduced Ada in 1833 to Charles Babbage, the "father of computing," an English scientist: mathematician, astronomer, author of logarithmic tables, and designer of mechanical calculating machines. Babbage invited Ada to see his prototype difference engine, which fascinated her.
Since Somerville was intensely scientific, the problem arose of how to describe her as a scientist. For this reason, the previous English term for scientist - "man of science" - fell into disuse and was replaced by "scientist", which is still in use today.
She quickly became the "popular beauty of the season," largely because of her "brilliant" mind. By 1834, she was a regular at the court, attending various functions, dancing frequently, and charming many people who described her as a filigree.
She also met her father's friends there, who were able to see her father's features, especially her mouth. Because of her mother, who had instilled in her a dislike for all of her father's friends, she did not like them. Usually the first impression faded after a longer acquaintance, and she remained on friendly terms with some.
The couple had three houses: Ockham Park - a 17th century English country house in Ockham, County Surrey, a Scottish estate on Loch Torridon, and a house in London. From 1845 the family's main home was a 19th century country house, Horsley Towers.
They had three children: Byron, born in 1836, Anna Isabella, called Annabella, born in 1837, and Ralph Gordon, born in 1839.
In 1838, her husband became Earl of Lovelace and Viscount Ockham, and Ada became Countess of Lovelace.
Gambling inspired her to create a mathematical model of high stakes betting in 1851. The idea failed, however, and she lost thousands of pounds.
She saw them as tools for discovering "invisible worlds around us." She believed that intuition and imagination were crucial to the successful application of mathematical and scientific concepts.
Babbage was impressed with her intellect and analytical skills. He called her the "The Enchantress of Numbers". In 1840, Babbage gave a seminar at the University of Turin on his latest invention, the analog computing machine that served as a perpetual calendar. The seminar was attended by the Italian engineer Luigi Menabrea (later Prime Minister of Italy), who took notes of the lecture and later published them.
Ada Lovelace translated the article and added her own notes, three times as long as the article itself: The diagram attached to the article is considered the first computer program. She created an algorithm to compute Bernoulli numbers (sequence of rational numbers which occur frequently in analysis), but it was not tested because the machine was never built.
She was also interested in the methods of the time, such as phrenology (a pseudoscience that relied on measuring bumps on the skull to predict mental characteristics) and mesmerism (an 18th-century proto-scientific theory that postulated the existence of an invisible natural force possessed by all living things, including humans).
In 1844, she wanted to create a mathematical model of how the brain causes thoughts and the nerves cause feelings ("Calculus of the Nervous System"). She never realized it. The reason for Lovelace's interest in the brain was that she had long been preoccupied with her potential insanity, which she had inherited from her mother. As part of her work on this project, she contacted electrical engineer Andrew Crosse to learn how to conduct electrical experiments.
She also worked on projects exploring the relationship between mathematics and music.
The disease had been present for several months, and its progression was probably accelerated by bloodletting by a doctor. Ada was cared for by her mother, who kept her friends away from her. Under her mother's influence, Ada underwent a religious transformation and was urged to atone for her sins.
Ada also lost contact with her husband, who left their bedroom after a conversation with her.
Although she didn't know him, he was in her thoughts all her life. She even named her two sons Byron and Gordon after him.
Ada was buried at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire. This church is the traditional burial place of the Byron family, who have a family vault there. There is a modest memorial to Lord Byron in the church.
It is now believed that the Analytical Engine was the inspiration for the design of later computers, and Ada Lovelace's algorithm is considered by many to be the first computer program.
This is disputed by many who believe that some of Charles Babbage's earlier writings can be considered computer programs.
In 1981, the Association for Women in Computing (AWC) established the Ada Lovelace Award. Since 1998, the British Computer Society has awarded the Lovelace Medal.
It is an annual event that began on the second Tuesday of October in 2009. Its purpose is to raise the status of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and to create new role models for girls and women in these fields.