Ada Byron: The First Computer Programmer

On December 10, 1815, Ada Augusta Byron was born to the poet Lord Byron and to Anne Isabella Milbanke. Unfortunately, Ada’s parents separated after her birth, leaving her to the full custody of her mother, Isabella, who soon became the Baroness of Wentworth. Ada never knew her father. Lord Byron died when she was still nine years old.

Despite not knowing her father, many people believe that Ada may have inherited her father’s poetic attributes. However, Baroness Byron, Ada’s mother, was determined to raise Ada not as a poet, but as a mathematician and a musician. The Baroness believed that mathematics could help in molding the moral discipline of a person, while music could aid in socializing with prominent people. Ada was trained to be proficient in mathematics and in music. Initially, these tasks weren’t easy for Ada at all. As a matter of fact, Ada was given punishments when she failed to impress her mother through excellent academic performance. Otherwise, her mother would reward her when she met whatever was expected of her. The training put mental pressure on the young Ada, but it eventually paid off. The training influenced Ada to become driven and very enthusiastic in various intellectual discussions, especially in mathematics. Later in life, William King, the Earl of Lovelace, married Ada Byron. She is also known by the name of Augusta Ada Byron-King, Lady of Lovelace.

Charles Babbage, the inventor of the Analytical Engine, was one of the many people who admired Lovelace’s strong motivation and commitment to mathematics. Babbage and Lovelace first met on party that was held on June 5, 1833. Lovelace was instantly fascinated by the intellectual discussions about the Analytical Engine. Since then, Lovelace began working for Babbage. It wasn’t long before she became an expert on the Analytical Engine, which was capable of reading data from a deck of punched cards. The Analytical Engine was also capable of storing data and performing basic operations like arithmetic computations.

Lovelace became known for her notes on the Analytical Engine. In 1842, a lecture on the analytical engine was given by Babbage and written down in French by Luigi F. Menabrea. Lovelace translated the transcript from French to English and added more to it. She added her own analyses and other important details, which resulted in three times the original amount of notes. In these notes, she stated how the engine can be programmed to use numerical data differently. She had originally thought of using numerical data as variables that could be used to compose music or to show graphics. She also mentioned other significant features that are surprisingly evident in modern-day computers.

Lovelace also touched other topics. For one, she influenced the education of women in the 19th Century. She was also open with her views on various topics like the role of nature and nurture in assessing capabilities, and possible effects of illnesses on various situations. Ada was also responsible for writing a plan for the Analytical Engine to compute Bernoulli numbers, which turned out to be the world’s first computer program. Basically, she established early concepts for the development of the technology needed for the rise of the modern-day computers.

Lovelace died from uterine cancer at the young age of 36 in November 27, 1852.