Celebrating “The Enchantress Of Numbers”
The Mother of Modern Computers was born on this day in 1815. How important was Ada Lovelace to the development of computers? Among her contributions was the idea that computers could do more than just crunch numbers.
Ada was born in 1815, the daughter of Romantic poet Lord Byron and his then wife Annabella. The marriage didn’t work out [Ada’s parent seperated only a month after her birth. Lord Byron left, died when Ada was eight, and may never have actually seen his daughter], so her mother took care of raising the child.
Annabella Byron had an unusual education for a 19th-Century woman. It included a heavy dose of mathematics, which she passed on to young Ada. She was considered a beauty [she’s the subject of the painting in the photos, which is normally on display at Ten Downing Street, home of Britan’s Prime Minister], and lived a rather racy life, even by today’s standards [Don’t believe me? Click here…].
Among her many friends was Charles Babbage, who was working on a mathematic calculating device [his machine, known as the Babbage Engine, was not built in his lifetime. In fact, it was only constructed in 2002]. Ada was a regular contributor to Babbage’s explorations [Babbage, more than a little dazzled by Lovelace, called her the Enchantress of Numbers], even working out a problem for the Engine to solve [and, in the process, becoming the first computer programmer].
In the same article where she created the computer problem, she also speculated on tasks besides mathematics that the Engine might perform [her thought was that the machine might be able to compose music], opening up possibilities that the computer you’re reading this on fulfilled.
Ada Lovelace died at the age of 36, from uterine cancer. But her achievements are remembered in the annual Ada Lovelace Day celebration in October, and the computer language Ada, used by the Department of Defense. She is looked on as a role model for women who choose a career in computer sciences and mathematics. Google dedicated a ‘doodle’ in her memory today.