Happy Birthday, Ada Lovelace!

I meant to post this yesterday, but I’m afraid I fell asleep at my keyboard.  So it must go up during my evening writing time tonight.  😉

Forget this world and all its troubles and if possible its multitudinous Charlatans—every thing in short but the Enchantress of Numbers.  — Charles Babbage, of Ada Lovelace

Yesterday, December 10 2015, was the 200th birthday of Ada Lovelace, daughter of George Gordon, better known as Lord Byron, and his wife, Anna Wentworth.  She was his only legitimate child, and he left Anna only a month after little Ada was born.  He died eight years later, and Ada never knew him.  She would nevertheless grow up admiring him.  Out of fear that Ada would turn out like her poet father (“mad, bad, and dangerous”), Anna pushed her daughter towards non-poetic pursuits, and in particular mathematics, which the little girl devoured.  She dabbled in inventing, and and in 1833 was introduced to Charles Babbage, who developed the Difference Engine.  She was very impressed with the device, and collaborated with him on a successor, the Analytical Engine, which ultimately was never built.  However, she devised a set of instructions to be given to the Analytical Engine which would calculate a set of Bernoulli Numbers.  The instructions would ahve executed correctly had the device been built, so this set of instructions (published as an appendix to her translation of an Italian article about the Analytical Engine) is generally recognized as the world’s first computer program.  She had realized the true value of Babbage’s Analytical Engine, which was more sophisticated than the Difference Engine, and could act as a general purpose computer.

She died in 1852 at the age of 36 of uterine cancer, leaving behind a husband and three children.  She is remembered in many ways, but perhaps the most known is that the computer language Ada is named for her, and was designated MIL-STD-1815 to mark also the year of her birth.  A strongly-typed language designed for embedded systems and real-time systems, it is mostly used in aerospace.

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