Not many women in history were able to leave a mark, especially in the programming world. How can one see the potential of a machine, the future of programming, and the ability it will have before the computer had even existed? For this, we need to thank a magnificent woman, Ada Lovelace.
Ada Lovelace was a love child of a famous English poet, Lord Byron, and Annabella Milbanke. Born in London in 1815, she certainly was not destined to be a great inventor. But her mother, who had training in mathematics, was the one who insisted that Ada was privately tutored in mathematics. Through these classes, her love for science began.
Around the age of 17, Ada met Charles Babbage, an inventor who was building the machine that is now better known as a prototype of the computer. But his machine was built solely on mathematical principles and his idea was for it to perform mathematical calculations.
In 1843 she translated an article by Italian mathematician Luigi Federico Menabrea, who wrote about Babbage’s machine “Notions sur la machine analytique de Charles Babbage”, for English newspapers (“Elements of Charles Babbage’s Analytical Machine”). She is remembered for her notes, including ideas and opinions, that she put in the article and were longer than the article itself. In her notes, she describes how an engine could be programmed to repeat a series of instructions, a process that is now used by every programming software. She describes how such a machine can be instructed to process not only numbers but codes and letters as well. Moreover, she expressed her forward-thinking ideas but at the time her article didn’t attract much attention.
She died at age of 37, suffering from cholera but her ideas and contribution to science have not been forgotten. Around the 1950s, B.V. Bowden rediscovered her notes and introduced them to the world. Today she is remembered as ‘’the prophet of the computer age’’. In the 1980s a newly invented computer language was also named after her, ‘’Ada’’ by the U.S. Department of Defense. Every second Tuesday in October is known as Ada Lovelace Day when we celebrate and remember all the women in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM). This year it will be celebrated on October 12, 2021.