Ada Augusta Lovelace

Ada Augusta Lovelace
In a world that is dominated by men, there were few women who could stand up and be noticed in the earlier years. In the early nineteenth century, Ada Augusta Byron Lovelace, made herself known among the world of men and her work still influences today's world. She is considered the "Mother of Computer Programming" and the "Enchantress of Numbers." The world of computers began with the futuristic knowledge of Charles Babbage and Lady Lovelace. She appeared to know more about Babbage's work of the Analytical Engine than he himself knew. During the time of Lovelace's discoveries, women were just beginning to take part in the scientific world, although the attitude towards women and education was that women should not exceed or match that of a male. It was also believed that women who studied extensively would become extremely ill and eventually die. Lovelace was driven to the world of men by her passion and love for mathematics. Her upbringing, her search for more knowledge, her love for mathematics and her incredible inherited wiring abilities bought to life what we know today as computer programming or computer science. Ada Augusta Byron Lovelace was born to Anne Isabella Milbanke and the famous British Poet George Gordon Byron on December 10, 1815 in London England. Her parent's marriage lasted for one year and one month after the birth of Lovelace. From that point in time, her domineering mother governed Lovelace's life. Her mother encouraged a formal education. In Lovelace's time, education of women was limited to that of bringing up their children and keeping the household. As a child, Lovelace's tutors and governesses were all instructed to teach her the discipline of science, mathematics, and music in such a way the she would never find the love of writing that her father possessed. "Undoubtedly, Lovelace was better off not attending a school where she would have been obliged to follow the typical curriculum for young ladies of her class. Living a sheltered live among her mother's circle of friends, Lovelace was better educated through governesses, tutors, and later, independent study." (Nilson, 84) One of her tutors was Dr. William King, the family physician. He was not fond of mathematics but was instructed to "operate" on Lovelace's thirteen-year-old brain. After his services were no longer needed, Lovelace continued contact with Dr. King by way of letters, which proposed mathematical problems and equations. She searched for more in-depth mathematical knowledge that Dr. King did not possess. She read many mathematical books that she could find, including Dionysius Lardner's Euclid and Vince's Place and Spherical Trigonometry. Another one of her tutors had been William Frend, who introduced her to Augustus De Morgan, a famous mathematician. De Morgan taught her advanced mathematics, the equivalency to men studying at Cambridge University. In the words of De Morgan she, "would have been an original mathematical investigator, perhaps of first rate eminence but not, he suggested, is she had gone to the university (had it admitted women then), where the system would have demanded sacrifice and originality" (Baum, 20).
On May 10, 1833, Lovelace began venturing out into the world of adults. At this time, she attended parties and balls with a desire to meet other people who shared her love of mathematics, music, riding horses and anything else that was new and interesting. Lovelace wanted to meet Mary Somerville, the famous female mathematician who had just published "The Mechanism of the Heavens," a book on mathematical astronomy. Mrs. Somerville was Lovelace's hero, and later, she became a good friend and a tutor. It was at a party that Lovelace met Charles Babbage, the famous inventor of the ophthalmoscope and the speedometer. Babbage and Lovelace became close friends and found "a constant intellectual companion in whom she found a match for her powerful understanding" (Perl, 131). It was then when she developed a bond between herself and his work. Her interests were in the Analytical Engine, a machine that would use punch cards to calculate higher degrees of polynomials with ease and accuracy. Being a woman, she was not allowed to explore her ideas with just anyone, but with Babbage, she went the full distance. The majority of Lovelace's work was performed through letters, and personal contact fell to a minimum. The restrictions of the time for women required her to have an escort before she was married, and that left her mathematical knowledge to be gathered in the only discrete way possible; written communication.
Charles Babbage traveled to Turin, Italy to give a presentation on the plans for the Analytical Engine. Luigi Frederico Menabrea was among the present that day and was impressed with the Analytical Engine. He later wrote an article for a Swiss journal in French on Babbage's presentation. Since Ada had a control over written words, a family friend convinced Ada to translate the article. She agreed and translated the sketch of Babbage's Analytical Engine, written from the material he received in the lecture given by Babbage. Since her knowledge of French was great, she translated the piece with ease, but she became immersed in the project, and added more details about the machine than the original article had. Her devotion to the project allowed her to ignore her physical ailments, but largely became sickly for the rest of her life. The ailments came for the birth of her third child. After childbirth, she developed cholera which she survive but with serious complications like asthma and digestive problems. In addition, she ignored her family and her womanly chores in order to accomplish the highest quality of her work. Her husband, Lord William King, Earl of Lovelace, actually encouraged her to work with Babbage and ignored her failure to take care of her family.
Lovelace put much effort on her translation and into her "Notes," which bits of information that expanded on the reliability, need, and usefulness of the Analytical Engine and which were added for more detail. She spent countless hours having Babbage check her work, and in the end, she came up with a piece worthy of publication. The only problem Lovelace faced was signing her work. As a woman, her work would have not been taken seriously and would have been looked at disapprovingly. This made it difficult for Lovelace to sign her work for fear that the paper's miraculous findings and ideas would be ignored. After Babbage's insistence, Lovelace signed her work A.A.L. The piece was then published in 1844 and received rave reviews. Shortly after, Ada Lovelace was diagnosed with uterine cancer and died on November 27, 1852.
Thirty years after Lovelace's death, the peace on the Analytical Engine was credited to her name. At that time, Lovelace achieved another task that had not been foremost in her mind, but she had accomplished this when women were unable to attend science debates and mathematical meetings. Cambridge University did not admit women at the time, and only by begging mathematicians and scientists women were allowed to attend lectures at Cambridge. Women were gaining a step into the world of men, and the reason for their advances was due to the few women who had the desire and willpower to push their way into the forbidden world. Such women like Lovelace paved the way for women to enter this world.
Lovelace's work provided a clear mechanical explanation of the Analytical Engine and illustrated how it might perform multiple tasks. This was the beginning of computer programming. It set the Analytical Engine up to accept and input, make calculations based on the input, and produce some output for people to see. This mechanism was the design for the first general-purpose computer. Today's computers are modeled after the plans that Babbage had created, and Lovelace has created the means to make it work. She had laid out a program and included within it several loops to compute Bernoulli numbers. Her insights were way ahead of time and were accepted into the world of men. Lovelace gave birth to a new era of technology. Her work became the basis for the computer programming language of the United States Department of Defense, Ada. She was also honored by Microsoft by adding her image to the product authenticity hologram stickers.

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