Ada Lovelace - first computer programmer

Five facts about Ada Lovelace

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Mathematician Ada Lovelace has the lofty title of ‘Victorian visionary’ and is known as the queen of computing, even though the first PC wasn’t built until 100 years later. We’ve discovered some fascinating facts about this genius analyst that you might not already know…

 

Her dad was a poet
But not just any poet. Ada Lovelace’s father was the “mad, bad and dangerous to know” romantic poet Byron. But her parents didn’t have a happy marriage and broke up soon after Ada was born. She never really knew her father and he died when she was 8 years old so, although his creative nature lived on through her abstract mathematical thinking, he didn’t have much influence over her life. Even so, Ada did vow to be “a better analyst than he was a poet”.

Ada Lovelace's Father - The Poet Lord Byron 

She designed an aeroplane
When Ada was 12 her mother fell ill, and they were separated while Lady Byron went away for treatment. It was then that the young Ada designed a flying machine in order to travel to be with her mother. Ada loved machines and she studied birds to figure out the mechanics of flight. Her steam-powered aeroplane design was finished 15 years before the first aerial steam carriage was patented by Henson & Stringfellow in 1842, which just goes to show how forward-thinking her young mind was.

Ada Lovelace designed an airplane


She was the first computer programmer in history
Long before Instagram changed its algorithm, Ada Lovelace came up with the first ever written program to make a machine function. She worked with Charles Babbage, the inventor of an early calculator that was based on a finite number of possible calculations. Ada translated his work and added her own algorithm notes, which led to the development of the Analytical Engine, the earliest version of a computer. This ‘computer’ was just theoretical and was never built, so Ada never saw her programming put into practice.

First computer programmer - Ada Lovelace 

She didn’t fit into society
Ada was often described as a socially awkward character, in complete contrast to her charming and witty father Lord Byron. She bored guests at events with conversations about maths and, in society gossip, she was described as poorly dressed and “the most coarse and vulgar woman in England”. We guess she was probably busy thinking of more important things than how to impress the ladies of high society!

Computing pioneer - Augusta Ada Byron 

She has her own day of the year
In October every year the world celebrates Ada Lovelace Day. Is it her birthday? Or the day she died? No – it’s just a random day of the year that the founders of Ada Lovelace Day chose. The second Tuesday in October is a day for recognising the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths, so we can see why Ada was chosen as the face of this international celebration.

Ada Lovelace - English Heritage

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