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King, Augusta Ada Byron (1815 - 1852)

Also known as Augusta Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace, she was the first programmer in history and a computing pioneer.

Daughter of the famous English poet Lord Byron, she was born in London on 10 December 1815. Five weeks later, her parents divorced and her mother, Annabella Milbanke, was given custody of their daughter. Annabella took care of her upbringing and education and forbid her from having any contact with her father (who Ada never met), because she dreaded the idea of her daughter turning into a Bohemian poet like her father.

Hhe was educated by the best tutors in the country, in particular, Augustus De Morgan, one of the most senior professors at the University of London.

Tda’s happiness was ill-fated. At the age of 14 years, he suffered paralysis (like her father) and used crutches and then a cane for several years, although, when she recovered, she managed to become a skilled rider.

She took a strong interest in analysis and metaphysics. At the age of 17 years, influenced by Mary Somerville, she started to study mathematics.

In 1835, she married William King, an eighth Baron and the first Earl of Lovelace.

At an early age, she had taken an interest in Babbage’s studies and, after the birth of her third child, Ada wrote to him to ask for help with her studies. Babbage accepted her as his pupil and became her mentor and a good family friend.

In 1842, Ada made a detailed translation and analysis of the book “Elements of Charles Babbage’s Analytical Machine” written by an Italian engineer, Luigi Federico Menabrea, about Babbage’s Analytical Engine. The Analytical Engine, which Babbage never managed to build, was the first digital analytical calculator and forerunner of today’s computers. In this study of Menebrea’s work, Ada detailed and produced several results, including an excellent and thorough description of how such a machine could be programmed to compute Bernoulli numbers.

Iy 1843, Ada had, at the age of 28 years, polished Babbage’s plans for the Analytical Engine and designed several programs using the engine to make advanced mathematical calculations. In her personal notes, Augusta Ada wrote that the machine could only provide available information that was already known, that is, this machine could not generate knowledge.

One of her most brilliant ideas was that a long calculation could contain many repetitions in the same instruction sequence, and she realized that, using a conditional jump, it would be possible to prepare just one set of cards for recurring instructions. She described what we now know as a loop and a subroutine. Her ideas were spread a century later by the British mathematician Alan M. Turing in 1937 and John von Neumann in 1946, both of whom played a crucial role in the development of modern electronic digital computer.

In 1843, Ada published her work in Taylor’s Scientific Memoirs using her initials (A.A.L) only, as the journal, like all scientific publications of the time, did not accept manuscripts written by women.

After this scientific triumph, her health declined. She underwent many different treatments, some based on leeching and the continued administration of opium and morphine combined with large quantities of brandy, others on animal magnetism, but never recovered.

She died in 1852 and was buried beside her father in the Hucknall Torkard Church, Nottinghamshire.

After her death, her mother destroyed all possible evidence of her daughter’s “scandalous life”. Babbage tried to publish a memoir of Ada, but the attempt was thwarted by Lady Byron’s lawyers.

Her memoirs were published as part of Babbage’s Analytical Engine book in 1889. These memoirs were forgotten until computers were reinvented during the Second World War.

Doris Langley Moore published a biography of Ada, titled Ada Countess of Lovelace: Byron’s Legitimate Daughter in London in 1977.

In 1989, the United States Defense Department (the world’s biggest software customer) decided to unify the more than 400 programming languages used in their projects. It was decided that the Defense Department would work with software programmed in only one language, which would be available to the entire computing community. This language, which is widely used today, was called ADA in honour of Lady Ada.