10th Mar 2013
Badass Scientist of the Week: Ada Lovelace
Ada Lovelace, born Augusta Ada Byron (1815–1852), was a mathematician who is widely considered the founder of scientific computing. She was the daughter of Romantic poet Lord Byron and mathematician Anne Milbanke, whose brief marriage ended just a month after Ada was born—she never knew her father. Ada was raised by her mother, who encouraged her interest in mathematics and science, partly to prevent her from becoming a delinquent poet like her father. When she was seventeen, Ada met Charles Babbage, professor of mathematics at Cambridge and inventor of the Difference Engine, the first calculating machine. They began correspondences about mathematics, logic, and all manner of subjects. Two years later, Ada married William King and had three children, and became a Countess of Loveless when William inherited a noble title. In 1834, Babbage made plans for a new kind of calculating machine called an Analytical Engine, and in 1842, Italian mathematician Louis Menabrea published an article on the machine in French. Babbage enlisted Ada to translate it, a task she threw herself into with fervour—she translated the article over a nine-month period in 1842–43, adding extensive, enlightened notes of her own, which are the source of her enduring fame. Her notes show she understood the device’s potential better than Babbage, as they contained incredible visionary statements—she predicted, for example, that the Engine might act upon things other than numbers, such as composing elaborate scientific pieces of music. The idea that a machine could manipulate symbols according to laws, and that numbers could be used to represent things other than just quantities, marks the transition from calculation to computation. Ada took this mental leap, and she has been referred to as the ‘prophet of the computer age’ and an ‘Enchantress of Numbers’. She died young, cancer taking her at just 37, but her achievements as a mathematician and a woman live on in her legacy. In 1980, in honour of her contributions to computer science, the U.S. Department of Defence named its computer language ‘Ada.’

Badass Scientist of the Week: Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace, born Augusta Ada Byron (1815–1852), was a mathematician who is widely considered the founder of scientific computing. She was the daughter of Romantic poet Lord Byron and mathematician Anne Milbanke, whose brief marriage ended just a month after Ada was born—she never knew her father. Ada was raised by her mother, who encouraged her interest in mathematics and science, partly to prevent her from becoming a delinquent poet like her father. When she was seventeen, Ada met Charles Babbage, professor of mathematics at Cambridge and inventor of the Difference Engine, the first calculating machine. They began correspondences about mathematics, logic, and all manner of subjects. Two years later, Ada married William King and had three children, and became a Countess of Loveless when William inherited a noble title. In 1834, Babbage made plans for a new kind of calculating machine called an Analytical Engine, and in 1842, Italian mathematician Louis Menabrea published an article on the machine in French. Babbage enlisted Ada to translate it, a task she threw herself into with fervour—she translated the article over a nine-month period in 1842–43, adding extensive, enlightened notes of her own, which are the source of her enduring fame. Her notes show she understood the device’s potential better than Babbage, as they contained incredible visionary statements—she predicted, for example, that the Engine might act upon things other than numbers, such as composing elaborate scientific pieces of music. The idea that a machine could manipulate symbols according to laws, and that numbers could be used to represent things other than just quantities, marks the transition from calculation to computation. Ada took this mental leap, and she has been referred to as the ‘prophet of the computer age’ and an ‘Enchantress of Numbers’. She died young, cancer taking her at just 37, but her achievements as a mathematician and a woman live on in her legacy. In 1980, in honour of her contributions to computer science, the U.S. Department of Defence named its computer language ‘Ada.’

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