Augusta Ada Lovelace (1815 - 1852)

Ada Lovelace was the daughter of the 6th Lord Byron (the famous poet) and Annabella Milbanke Byron. Her parents separated soon after Lovelace’s birth, and her father left for Greece. He died when Lovelace was eight years old, having never returned to England. Augusta was an associate of Charles Babbage, the creator of the first digital computer, for whom she created a program, making her in effect one of the world’s first computer programmers!

Lovelace was a mostly self-taught mathematician, and as a child her favourite subject was actually geography. She initially studied maths to please her mother, who Lord Byron had called “the Princess of Parallelograms”. Although her mother was a strict disciplinarian, she rarely spent any time with her daughter, and would punish her mistakes with solitary confinement rather than reward her achievements.

She met Charles Babbage (in 1833 and became interested in his machines. In 1843 she started to translate and annotate an article written by the Italian mathematician and engineer Luigi Federico Menabrea, (1842; “Elements of Charles Babbage’s Analytical Machine”). Her detailed and elaborate annotations were remarkable - she even described how the proposed Analytical Engine could be programmed to compute Bernoulli numbers.

She believed that the Analytical Engine could be used for things other than calculation, including the scientific composition of musical pieces. This was a very modern outlook, and in fact came true only at the end of the 20th century.

Her writings were published in 1843 under the author’s name of AAL (at this time women were not thought of as credible mathematicians). However, this high point was short-lived, and by the end of the year she was having health problems which required many medicines.

In 1834 Lovelace met William King whom she married on July 8, 1835, and with whom she had three children. When he was created an Earl in 1838, she became Countess Lovelace. In 1841 Lovelace began her advanced study in mathematics with Augustus De Morgan, the first professor of Mathematics at the University of London.

By January 1852 Lovelace was wracked with pain, as the cancer, presumably the major cause of her health problems, became more severe. In 1852, at the age of 37 Lovelace died.