Trailblazers / Design Heroes

Ada Lovelace

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Ada Lovelace was born in 1815 – the daughter of famous poet Lord Byron and his mathematics-loving wife, Anne. Ada inherited the talents of both her father and mother, developing an approach which she referred to as ‘poetical science’ – integrating poetry and science in order to better question basic assumptions.

Throughout her life, Ada was fascinated by scientific developments. In June 1833, this passion lead Ada to view a prototype of Charles Babbage’s Difference Machine – the first mechanical computer. Ada became enthralled with the machine, visiting it as often as possible.

In 1842, Ada translated a short article by the Italian mathematician, Luigi Menabrea, called the Analytical Engine. On Charles Babbage’s request, Ada went on to expand on this piece of work until it was more than three times the length of the original and contained several prescient observations on how the machine could be used.

In one of her notes, Ada wrote an algorithm which she theorised could be used by the Analytical Engine to compute Bernoulli numbers. This is what lead to Ada’s famous nickname as ‘the first computer programmer.’ Her notes later inspired Alan Turing’s work on modern computers.