Ada Lovelace (1815-1852):

When you use your device, remember that Ada Lovelace was the first person to write a computer program. She is widely regarded as the first person to recognize the full potential of computers. She wrote the first algorithm ever.

Ada Lovelace was born on the 10th of December, 1815 to the famous poet Lord Byron and his wife Lady Byron. Her parents named her Augusta Ada Byron. Her parents separated soon after she was born. Ada did not have a relationship with her father at all. Her mother left her in the care of Ada’s maternal grandmother but made sure Ada was privately schooled in mathematics and science by two scholars. Ada was often ill. However, by the age of 12, she had discovered her passion for mathematics and technology. Her project at the time was the miracle of flight. She built wings with different materials and did immense research. Eventually, she used her findings to write a book called Flyology.

Ada got married at the age of 20 to William King who was made the Earl of Lovelace. Therefore, Ada became the Countess of Lovelace. Throughout this time she had continued her studies in mathematics. Ada worked on many smaller projects. However, unknown to her, meeting with Charles Babbage two years earlier, would send her on her greatest journey ever.

Watercolour portrait of Ada King, Countess of Lovelace [Source: Common domain]
Watercolour portrait of Ada King, Countess of Lovelace [Source: Common domain]

Charles Babbage was an English mathematician. He had created the first programmable computer and was using it for his calculations. He had named this machine the Analytical Engine. Ada was fascinated by it and met with Babbage often to learn more about it. Eventually, she wrote the first program that would run on it. Until then only calculations had been run on the Analytical Engine. Her program was a recipe to give all the possible answers to a particular question. Today, we call this recipe an algorithm. This is why she is considered the world’s first computer programmer.

Ada also wrote a paper in 1843 that talked about how much more computers could do. She said that computers process numbers but if those numbers could be associated with musical notes and scales, computers could compose music. This thought was a big jump in thought at the time and showed scientists that computers can be used for more than calculation. They can be used for understanding and shaping our world. Historians agree the birth of computing as we know it today, was put forward by Ada in that 1843 paper

Ada Lovelace died of cancer at the young age of 36 on 27 November 1852. Her daughter took care of her during her final days. Ada was buried in Nottinghamshire next to Lord Byron, the father she never knew. Today, her legacy lives on. Ada Lovelace singlehandedly sent the world of computing decades into the future. She showed clearly how much more this little machine was capable of. Without a doubt, the world we live in now would be quite different without Ada’s advances in mathematics and technology.

Born: 10 December 1815, Nottinghamshire, England
Died: 27 November 1852, Nottinghamshire, England
Education: Tutors William Frend and William King (1824-1832)
Major contribution: First algorithm ever, Analytical Engine, capabilities of computing

More about Ada Lovelace

546 words | 5 minutes
Readability: Grade 8 (13-14 year old children)
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Filed under: biographies
Tags: #algorithms, #analytical engine, #artificial intelligence, #charles babbage, #programmer