Ada Lovelace – the First World’s Programmer

Ada Lovelace (born with the name of Augusta Ada Byron, on the 10th of December 1815), considered to be the first world’s programmer, was the daughter that the romantic poet George Gordon Byron, or shortly, Lord Byron, had with Anne Isabella Milbanke inside their short marriage, and she was herself an expert mathematician in a time when women did not have such practices.

Ada Lovelace
Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace never got to know her famous father, for her parents broke up immediately after her bith, and Lord Byron passed away when she was 8 years old in Greece, year 1923. Her entire life was a continuous struggle between feeling and reason, subjectivity and objectivity, poetry and mathematics, health and disease.

Ada Lovelace showed her passion for mathematics and logic ever since she was a child, her mother being the one who guided her towards these disciplines, attempting to counteract the dangerous poetic tendencies she inherited from her father. However, her skills were perfected by Augustus De Morgan, her first teacher of mathematical sciences at the University of London, and one of the people who can be held responsible for the development of the modern algebra.

At the age of 17, Ada Lovelace met Mary Somerville, a remarkable woman who translated the works of LaPlace into English, and who also encouraged her to study mathematics, but tried to place both mathematics and technology into a suitable human context.

At the age of 18, by attending a party of Mrs Somerville, the future programmer Ada Loverace met Chrales Babbage (the father of computers), and was fascinated by his ideas for an analytical engine which could perform mathematical analyses and operations. Thus, in 1942 she accepted to translate the technical presentation from French into English. Only that the numbers were not supposed to be seen as mere quantities, and the machine could operate any kind of data represented by numbers. Moreover, Ada Lovelace conceived the input data which could calculate Bernoulli’s numbers, thus writing the first computer program in the world.

Babbage himself acknowledged that, probably, Ada understood his analytical engine better than he did himself, admitting than he was: “much, much better at explaining it”.

In her notes, Ada Lovelace described the way in which codes for the letters and symbols manoeuvre device could be created with the help of numbers. She theorised a method for the engine to repeat a series of instructions, a process known under the name of “looping”, that the computer programs use today. For her work, Ada Lovelace is often considered to be the first computer programmer in the world.

After publishing the work, her life deteriorated, both due to the lack of a scientific project and the lack of friends to discuss mathematical problems with.

Ada died of uterine cancer in London, at 36 years old, on the 27 of November 1852. She was buried with her father, in the cemetery of the Church of “St. Mary Magdalene” in Nottingham, England.

The programming language, which also carries her name of “Ada”, has been imposed by the Pentagon until 1997 for the software projects of the United States Department of Defense.

Daniela Anei

(translated by Gabriela Tabacaru)