Definition

Augusta Ada King, countess of Lovelace (Ada Lovelace, Lady Byron)

Part of the Programming glossary:

Augusta Ada King, countess of Lovelace, nee Lady Byron, was an English mathematician often credited as the first computer programmer for her writings about Charles Babbage 's Analytical Engine . She was born in 1815, in Middlesex (now part of London) and died in London in 1852.

Ada, as she was called, was the daughter of the famous poet, Lord Byron and Annabella Milbanke Byron, who was, herself, an accomplished mathematician. Ada was rigorously trained in the arts and sciences by a succession of tutors, and through self-education. She married William King, 8th Baron King, in 1835 and became countess of Lovelace in 1838 when her husband was made an earl.

Ada had met Babbage when she was still in her teens and asked him to serve as her tutor several years later. While translating Luigi Menabrea's Elements of Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine from its original French, the countess contributed so many annotations that the result was three times the length of the original manuscript. In her annotations, Ada described a method by which the Analytical Engine could be made to compute Bernoulli numbers, which is why she's been called the first programmer.

Because her parents separated when she was an infant, and her father subsequently left the country, Ada did not have a personal relationship with Lord Byron. Nevertheless, she seems to have inherited something of his poetic sensibility along with her mother's mathematical talent. Among the countess' additions were such comments as "...the Analytical Engine weaves algebraic patterns, just as the Jacquard-loom weaves flowers and leaves."

Ada , the programming language, is named in honor of the countess of Lovelace.

This was last updated in January 2011
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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