Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.


On this day in history in 1815, was born Ada Lovelace.

Lovelace was the daughter of Lord Byron and assistant to the mathematician, Charles Babbage, the inventor of the computer, and became the first computer programmer.

Augusta Ada Byron was born on 10th December 1815, in London, the daughter of the poet George Gordon Byron and Annabella Milbanke Byron. On 21st April 1816, Byron separated from his wife and left Britain for ever, leaving his wife and daughter, never to see them again.

Ada was educated privately by tutors and by her mother, who had an abiding interest in mathematics. Lord Byron once called her ‘the princess of parallelograms’. Her mother gave Ada regular lessons in maths, in the hope that the logical discipline would inhibit the onset of madness, which Annabella thought existed in the Byron family.

In 1835, Ada married William King, 8th Baron King and, when he was created an earl in 1838, she became countess of Lovelace. She became acquainted with Mary Somerville, a noted scientific author, who introduced her in turn to Charles Babbage, the inventor of a calculating machine, later to become known as the computer. She told Babbage that she was well acquainted with mathematics and offered to help with the construction of his machine. Babbage doubted that a woman would have sufficient knowledge of mathematics, to be of any value to him, but when Ada added that she had some knowledge of languages, Babbage hired her as a translator.

In 1843, Ada translated and annotated an article written by the Italian mathematician and engineer, Luigi Federico Menabrea, who had proposed new functions for Babbage’s Analytical Machine. Ada not only translated the article, but added her own details and annotations. Her elaborate annotations, especially her description of how the Analytical Engine could be programmed to compute and make calculations beyond the power of the human brain, earned her the title of first computer programmer.  She wrote in her notes ‘the Analytical Engine weaves algebraic patterns, just as the Jacquard-loom weaves flowers and leaves.’ She added ‘the Engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.’

In 1852, at the age of 36, Ada contracted cancer and was put in the care of physicians who recommended bloodletting.  Unfortunately they went too far, as was often the case in the Nineteenth Century, and she bled to death. She died on 29th November 1852 and was buried with her father at the Byron family church in Hucknall.  [St. Mary Magdalen Church, Ogle Street, Hucknall, Nottingham NG15 7FQ]

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