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Ada Lovelace

The Computer Program

An addendum that would change the world as we know it.

Ada's work later inspired Alan Turing – the celebrated codebreaker who helped bring the Second World War to an end.

 

Auspicious beginnings

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

 

A pivotal meeting

Ada's interest in logic and mathematics was fostered by her mother, and she became fascinated by scientific developments. In June 1833 this led Ada to view a prototype of Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine – the first mechanical computer. Ada became enthralled with the machine, visiting it as often as possible, and she began a years-long friendship with Babbage.

 

Beyond mere calculation

In 1842, Luigi Menabrea – a mathematician and future Prime Minister of Italy – wrote up a lecture, delivered by Babbage on his proposed Analytical Engine. Ada translated Manabrea's article and expanded it to more than three times its original length, adding several prescient observations on how the machine could be used. In the final section she wrote an algorithm which she theorized could be used to compute Bernoulli numbers. While the Analytical Engine was never built, it has been widely recognized as a model for a computer – and Ada's algorithm as software.

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