October's "Woman of the Month"- Ada Lovelace
"That brain of mine is something more than merely mortal; as time will show." ~ Ada Lovelace
Ada was born Augusta Ada Byron, the only legitimate daughter of the infamous Lord and Lady Byron in 1815 much to the disappointment of her father. Many of you will have heard of Lord Byron, however Ada did not have a relationship with her father and Byron died when she was a little girl. From childhood, Ada was taught mathematics, an unheard of academic subject for a young lady at the time, by her anxious mother who feared the scandal and immorality of Lord Byron would reveal itself in her daughter. Ada was constantly battling one illness after another during her childhood but persevered with her studies. She certainly did not have a warm relationship with any of her family. The promise of her future talents can be traced back to when she was aged only twelve. Ada envisioned a "flying machine", she created a set of wings by examining bird anatomy, experimenting with materials and eventually wrote a book titled "Flyology" which illustrated her findings.
Ada was tutored by Mary Somerville, who was a fellow female scientific author and researcher, and her gift for Mathematics flourished. Perhaps one of the most significant moment of Ada's life occurred in 1833 when Somerville introduced her to the "father of computers" Charles Babbage. Babbage was so impressed with her intellect and analytical flair that Ada became his protege. Together, Babbage and Lovelace proposed the concept of the first computer in human history known as the "Analytical Machine".
Aged seventeen, Ada made her entry to the royal court of William IV and was praised for her "brilliant mind", she was considered a successful and charming courtier. In 1835, she married a British peer and went on to have three children, becoming the "Countess of Lovelace" in 1838. Despite her conventional marriage, Ada refused to be restricted by the stifling gender roles of her time. Like her father, she attracted scandal throughout her life and had many extra-marital relationships with men. Ada was also a prolific gambler and eventually had to sell the Lovelace jewels (oopsies).
Today, Ada is regarded as the founder of the modern computer programme and the world's first computer programmer. It is certainly ironic that an industry as male-dominated as technology had its roots in this extraordinary lady's work. Above all, Ada was concerned with the "unseen worlds around us", she was a pioneer of the future and it is a shame she is not alive today to witness the results of her work. She envisioned the potential of modern-day computers all the way back in the 1830s!
It took nearly a century for technology to catch up with Ada's inventions; British scientists and politicians at the time were confused and a little afraid of Ada and Babbage's creation. Today, the American programming language used in aviation, the space industry, health care and transport is named "Ada" in honour of this remarkable mathematician. Lovelace died of cancer aged only 36 and was buried alongside her infamous father Lord Byron following a life-long fascination with her father and his work. Without her dedication to mathematics, I would possibly not be writing on this blog right now.
- Ellie x