Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace was born December 10th 1815, the only child of the famous English Romantic poet, Lord Byron and his wife Lady Byron. Lord Byron separated from Ada’s mother a month after her birth and died when she was eight years old.

Ada’s mother was convinced that her husband, who was a kind of wild celebrity in England, was mad. She made a big effort to make sure that her daughter received a proper education, particularly in mathematics, to prevent her becoming insane too. As a result, some of the greatest mathematicians in England worked as tutor to Ada.

Ada was often sick as a child, but always studied hard. In 1835, she married William King, an English nobleman and scientist. King was made Earl of Lovelace in 1838, and Ada became Countess of Lovelace. Because of her scientific interests and her family connections, Ada knew many famous scientists of the time. However, she saw her own approach as “poetical science,” suggesting that her father’s influence was still strong.

When she was still a teenager, in 1833, her studies in mathematics brought her into contact with Charles Babbage, the English inventor and mathematician. Many people consider Babbage to be the father of the computer, due to his invention of the Analytical Engine, an early prototype for modern computers. Ada was particularly interested in the Analytical Engine and visited Babbage as often as she could.

Ada later translated an article about Babbage’s machine, written by an Italian engineer who later went on to become Prime Minister of Italy. Ada added many explanatory notes to the translation, actually three times longer than the article itself! These notes are now regarded as very important to the history of computers, because they include the first ever computer program, or algorithm, a set of actions to be carried out by a machine.

Interestingly, in her notes, Ada made it clear that she did not believe artificial intelligence would ever be a problem, because computers will only ever really be able to follow directions.

Ada died from cancer in 1852.