Ada Lovelace image

Ada Lovelace

Innovation is at the Heart of the Midlands Ada Lovelace changed the world. Countess Augusta Ada Lovelace, English mathematician is credited with being the world's first computer programmer.

Ada Lovelace and the launch of the digital age

Countess Augusta Ada Lovelace, English mathematician and writer was born 10th December in Piccadilly, London. Ada was the daughter of romantic poet Lord Byron, spent her childhood in Kirkby Mallory. She was a scientific genius and a woman who led a colourful life. A gifted mathematician, she is credited with being the world's first computer programmer.


Ada Lovelace stars in Doctor Who episode Spyfall Picture BBC


Ada Lovelace stars in Doctor Who episode Spyfall

Computing pioneer Ada Lovelace featured in the second part of the Doctor Who episode Spyfall, where Ada was played by Sylvie Briggs. She travelled with the doctor (Jodie Whittaker) through time as she tries to uncover who is behind a series of assassinations. They spend time in 1940s Nazi-occupied Paris, where Ada despairs to see a world of destruction that flies in the face of her vision for how computing could advance humanity. But once the doctor has saved the day and returned Ada to her own time, the time lord encourages her that her work is worthwhile, telling her: “Computers start with you.” So even Dr Who thinks Ada Lovelace initiates the birth of the digital revolution.


If you've only got a few minutes this is great overview of Ada Lovelace and why she is considered the inventor of computer programming - and why we agree with Google in the view that she was also the birth of the digital revolution.


The only legitimate child of Lord Byron

Ada, who was the only legitimate child of Lord Byron, last saw her father as a baby on January 15, 1816, after her mother, Annabella Byron, left him on account of his legendary infidelity and his soon to be exile abroad. They moved to her mother's parents home in Leicestershire, Kirkby Mallory Hall, which was to be Ada's home for the next 11 years. Annabella Byron wanted Ada to learn mathematics so that Ada’s imagination did not run wild as she considered had happened to Byron, who lived in a world of his own. So Ada was kept away from poetry and was privately home schooled in mathematics and science under the supervision of William Frend, William King and Mary Somerville.


If you've only got 20 minutes this is a more detailed overview of Ada Lovelace and strengthens the links to her education, development and thinking to her childhood in Leicestershire.



Ada the gifted student meets British mathematician Charles Babbage

1832 Ada was being tutored by the mathematician and logician Augustus De Morgan. In a letter written by Augustus to Annabella, he stated that Ada's skill in mathematics could lead her to become an original mathematical investigator and perhaps a first-rate eminence. In 1833 Ada had an affair with a tutor and was caught by his relatives, who in turn contacted her mother. The affair was covered up by Annabella and her friends to stop a public scandal from damaging her name. Ada became close friends with Mary Somerville, a tutor that she greatly respected. During the month of June, Mary introduced Ada to the British mathematician Charles Babbage.


The Difference engine

After meeting Charles Babbage, Ada described seeing the working prototype of the Difference engine (an automatic mechanical calculator);

"We both went to see the thinking machine (for so it seems) last Monday. It raised several Nos. to the 2nd and 3rd powers, and extracted the root of a Quadratic equation.." Ada was fascinated with the machine and she used her friendship with Mary Somerville to visit Charles Babbage as often as she could.


A regular at Court, scientists, Dickens, marriage and three children

By 1834 Ada had started to attend various events and had become a regular at Court where the likes of scientists Andrew Crosse, Sir David Brewster, Charles Wheatstone and Michael Faraday would attend. The English author Charles Dickens would also frequent Court while Ada was there. 8th July 1835 Ada now 19 years of age, married Lord William King-Noel (8th Baron King) and on 12th May 1836 Ada gave birth to her first child, he was named Byron in honour of Ada's father. 22nd September 1837 Ada gave birth to her second child, a daughter she named Annabella after her mother and on 2nd July 1839 Ada gave birth to her third child and second son, he was named Ralph Gordon.


Ada Lovelace the first computer programme

The first computer programme

In 1842 over the course of the year, Ada translated an article that Luigi Menabrea's (Italian Military engineer who would later become the Italian prime minister) wrote in French on the Analytical Engine. Ada supplemented the translated article with further notes of further findings. It is the content of these notes which is considered to be the first computer program, an algorithm that was designed to be carried out by a machine to compute Bernoulli numbers. Based on these notes that were labelled alphabetically from A to G, Ada is widely considered as the first computer programmer, her method is also recognised as the first computer programme.

Ada had become Charles Babbage’s protégé, working closely with him on the design of the Difference engine which required Ada's written programme to carry out complex calculations, the forerunner of the computer. Being good friends, Charles Babbage affectionately called Ada 'The Enchantress of Numbers'.


1852 Ada, Countess of Lovelace dies

Ada Lovelace died of uterine cancer at the age of 36 at Marylebone, London, 27th November 1852. By Ada's request, she was buried next to her father, Lord Byron (died, aged 36 in 1824) inside the Byron family vault in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Hucknell, Nottinghamshire. Annabella, her daughter, had a Gothic-styled memorial to Ada built close by to Kirkby Hall, in the grounds of the All Saints Church in Kirkby Mallory, Leicestershire.

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