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Ada Byron Lovelace

Date: 11/13/95 at 9:1:23
From: Anonymous
Subject: Ada Byron Lovelace

We are looking for information on Ada Byron Lovelace.  Our search 
has provided minimal results.  In our quest we have found only an 
article or two.  If you have any information (Web sites, books, 
Internet addresses) please respond. 

Beth Leisses
Perry Tipler Middle School

Date: 11/13/95 at 10:45:1
From: Doctor Sarah
Subject: Re: Ada Byron Lovelace

Hi there -

I've found you some Web sites for Ada Byron Lovelace:

Here's a site that will tell you about Ada Lovelace's life:   

Here's a page on Early Women of Mathematics and Pioneering Women 
in Computing:   

From it you can find an article on Ada Lovelace that also 
discusses women and math:   

and here's a description of a poster about Charles Babbage and Ada 

Poster on "The Birth of the Computer Revolution," depicting 
Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, 1995.  The poster may be ordered 
prepaid post paid by check for $10 plus $3 shipping and handling, 
from Critical Connection P.O. Box 452, Sausalito,CA 94966.

The concept of the computer was first visualized by Charles 
Babbage in 1834 in England. His idea for the analytical engine 
consisted of 4 parts: an input device, a storage, a mill 
(processing unit) and output device.  Few people supported his 
ideas.  A knighthood was suggested, but Babbage regarded it as a 
being "b" knighted, and instead referred to himself as "Sir 
Alphabet Function".

In 1843, Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace, the daughter of the romantic 
poet, Lord Byron, wrote a description of Babbage's ideas.  She not 
only described Babbage's plans, but included what is now 
considered the first computer program.  She also added her 
prescient comments which have stood the test of time: she 
hypothesized the machine might compose complex music, graphics, be 
a multipurpose machine of both practical and scientific use.  
Babbage called Ada, "The Enchantress of Numbers".

Charles Babbage (1791-1871) and Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace (1815-
1852), were two of the most picturesque characters in computer 
history. Their ideas were dropped, picked up, and morphed to the 
present day.  A software language developed by the United States 
Department of Defense was named in Ada's honor.  William Gibson 
and Bruce Sterling used Ada as a character in their popular 
science fiction novel, The Difference Engine. In the PBS series 
The Machine that Changed the World, Ada was shown sitting writing 
letters to Charles Babbage. Though her life was short (like her 
father she died at 36 years of age) her letters, and a selection 
from her description of Babbage's engine found in Ada, The 
Enchantress of Numbers by Betty A. Toole (Strawberry Press) are 
filled with both fantasy and the foundation of the concepts of the 
computer revolution.

The history, the present, and the future, of the computer 
revolution is filled with many people, famous, and not famous, 
working together. And the future ??

-- Betty A. Toole, author of Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers. 


-Doctor Sarah,  The Geometry Forum

Date: 11/13/95 at 11:13:0
From: Doctor Sarah
Subject: Re: Ada Byron Lovelace

I found you another reference for Ada Lovelace.  The style isn't 
the greatest, but there's a good amount of information.   

Written by Kellie Hocking, Class of 1996 (Agnes Scott College)

Surprisingly, amidst all the scandal, social gossiping, sickness 
and family fame, emerged one of the most talented mathematicians, 
Augusta Ada Byron (later called Ada Lovelace). As a young woman 
coming from high society it was very unlikely for a woman to 
pursue a technical field. Not only was the time period against her 
but a horrible scandal concerning her father was the center of 
gossip for quite some time. Yet Ada still persevered through one 
of the most challenging subjects of the time - mathematics.  Her 
interests did not stop in the field of mathematics though.  Ada 
went on to publish a work concerning mechanical engineering, 
settled with a husband, had three children and somewhere found 
time to delve into her studies.

As a child, Ada was very sickly yet her strong will still enabled 
her to be quite charming.  Her father, George Gordon, Lord Byron, 
loved her dearly but since her parents' separation shortly after 
she was born, and from his death when she was a child, Ada grew up 
with just her mother, Annabella Milbanke or Lady Byron. Lady Byron 
was herself an amateur mathematician. Ada struggled with immobile 
states of sickness throughout her adolescence and adulthood, and 
yet through her strong will and by the encouragement of her 
mother, she pursued mathematics.

Most of her education was the result of many tutors and friends 
such as Augustus de Morgan. She acquired many companions in her 
pursuits of her studies. She eventually met another mathematician, 
Mrs. Mary Somersville, whom she had admired for a long time. 
Through Mrs. Somerville's son, Ada was able to meet her future 
husband, Earl of Lovelace (Lord William King at the time). She 
married the thirty year old Earl at the age of nineteen. Soon 
after having three children Ada fell ill to a number of 
sicknesses.  Unfortunately, these illnesses plagued her off and 
on, and so, she was often forced to abandon other mathematical 

Among some of her other scholarly friends was Charles Babbage.  
Babbage, at the time, was working on the Analytical Engine. She 
thought so much of this machine that she labored by writing and 
translating a previous work (which was originally written by L. F. 
Menabrea in French) about the engine.  Because of her addition of 
detailed explanations of many of the principles involved in the 
Analytical Engine, she has been credited with the concept of 
programming, and so, has been called the inventor of programming.  
Since the time period was not in favor of a practicing woman 
mathematician, Ada signed only her quiet initials, A.A.L., to 
distinguish this work as her own. Her work was entitled 
"Observations on Mr. Babbages's Analytical Engine." Today, on 
behalf of her great work in mathematics, a military programming 
language, Ada, is named after her.

After the publishing of her work, Ada did nothing more of 
significance with her mathematical talents, yet has still remained 
an asset to the field of mathematics especially in the area of 
computer science. Some of the brightest scholars of the time, 
which included Michael Faraday and Charles Wheatsone, acknowledged 
her gift in this field.

Even though she was a sickly woman, Ada still made time for 
athletics. Her greatest love was riding horses and that is where 
her financial troubles took a turn for the worst. After betting on 
horse races Ada lost heavily and became obsessed with placing 
bets. She became so indebted that she had to sell her family 
jewels. She used Babbage's servants to do her dirty work since it 
was not sociably acceptable for a lady to be involved in such 
activities. Her mathematical talents could not get her out of the 
financial difficulties that amounted from her compulsive gambling. 
Her husband and mother recognized her problem, and as a result of 
ending this obsession, tried to cut off all ties with her gambling 
connections by keeping Babbage and his servants away.

Unfortunately her family could not ward off the cancer that 
eventually consumed her. Ada died at the young age of thirty-six. 
Her accomplishments exceeded many women of her time. She proved to 
be an everlasting figure of hope and inspiration as she triumphed 
through impossible odds. Many believe that she could have 
continued on with her mathematics if it had not been for her 
illnesses. However, her accomplishments when she was alive still 
live on today in our own technology, and her work will continue to 
do so as new and better means of technology are built from some of 
the fundamental mathematical 
explanations of Ada Lovelace.


Ada Countess of Lovelace, Moore, Doris Langley, Harper & Row, 
Publishers.  New York, 1977.

Women and Numbers: Lives of Women Mathematicians, Perl, Teri, Wide 
World Publishing, 1993.

Thinking and Computing, T.W. Hogan, 1995, p.12.

-Doctor Sarah,  The Geometry Forum

Associated Topics:
Middle School History/Biography

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