Augusta Ada Byron was born on December 10, 1815. She is the only legitimate offspring of the poet, George, Lord Byron and his wife, Anne Isabella (“Annabella”) Milbanke, Lady Wentworth. According to 10 Things You May Not Know about Ada Lovelace, the first words her father to his infant daughter were, “Oh! What an implement of torture have I acquired in you!” Less than one month after she was born, Lord Byron informed his wife that he would continue his current affair and soon after asked her to leave with the child. As a result, Lord Byron never saw his daughter again.
Ada’s mother was concerned that her daughter would follow in her father’s footsteps. Because of that fear, Ada was tutored in mathematics and science starting at age four. She studied avian anatomy and at age 12 came up with a concept for a flying machine. It was much like Pegasus and sparked her imagination on to powered flight.
Envisioning the computer
She met Charles Babbage at the age of 17. Babbage was an inventor and mathematician and is known as the ‘father of the computer.’ While helping with a translation of an article about Babbage’s theoretical analytical engine, she added her own notes that included how the machine could be programmed to calculate Bernoulli numbers, which is possibly the first algorithm used for computing.
Ada also saw beyond Babbage’s belief that his machines could only calculate numbers. She envisioned that any content, including sounds (and music), text, and pictures, could be turned into a digital form and manipulated by machine. She wrote that the analytical engine “might act upon other things besides numbers, were objects found whose mutual fundamental relations could be expressed by those of the abstract science of operations… Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of [mathematical] expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.” (Klein)
It took nearly 100 years after her death for Ada to be recognized for her contributions to computing. At the dawn of computer science, she was rediscovered and her notes on Babbage’s analytical engine were republished in 1953. In 1979, the programming language ‘Ada’ was developed for use in military defense in the United States. Today, the program is still used in the aviation, healthcare, transportation, financial, infrastructure, and space industries.
Ada’s Personal Life
She married William 8th Baron King on July 8, 1835. She became Lady King. The couple had three children, Byron, Anne Isabella, and Ralph. Because Ada was a descendant of the Barons Lovelace, her husband was made Earl of Lovelace and Viscount Ocham in 1838. Ada became the Countess of Lovelace.
Ada died of uterine cancer on November 27, 1852. Although Ada never saw her father, she requested to be buried beside him in the Byron family vault inside the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, England. Both died at the age of 36.
Gallery updated March 8, 2019
Here are a couple of Recollections fashions inspired by the era in which Ada Lovelace lived.
10 Things You May Not Know About Ada Lovelace by Christopher Klein