Feb 242010

ada lovelace

Noble English mom and math whiz, she was the daughter of Lord Byron (who she never knew but is buried next to). She showed signs of her genius as a child. Her mother, a big math fan herself, had a huge influence on Ada’s life and the direction it took. Married briefly to the nomadic, aristocratic and incredibly flirty Lord Byron, she took Ada away from her famous dad when Ada was just five weeks old.

Fearful that Ada would follow in her famous father’s footsteps, her mom steered her away from studying the dangerous subjects of literature and poetry and guided her intellectual studies toward math and science. Still in her teens, she became fascinated with the inventor Charles Babbage and his Difference Engine. He became her mentor, helping her to study math at The University of London.

When he created the Analytical Engine, this enchantress of numbers, as she was called, wrote the plan for how engines might calculate numbers – regarded by many as the first computer program– all at the age of twenty-eight. She published this historical work under the initials A.A.L., as women were not accepted as intellectuals.

At the age of twenty, she had married a King – a William King – and when he became an Earl (of Lovelace) she became a Countess. Unfortunately, after she published her now famous work, it was all down hill from there.

This “poetic mathematician” hung out with lots of famous people, including Charles Wheatstone, inventor of the telegraph and microphone; Sir David Brewster, inventor of the kaleidoscope; and Charles Dickens. However, her own letters describe a tortured life of illness, gambling and debt, battling drug addiction and eager to flourish in a man’s world. She has. The United States Department of Defense developed a software language in 1979 and named it “Ada” after her.