What Contribution Did Ada Byron Make to Computing?

Ada Byron was the first computer programmer. She understood how the computer worked and even designed a new way for it to work.

Ada Byron's Computer Contribution

Ada Byron, or Augusta Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace, was born on December 10th, 1815 to the poet Lord Byron and Anne Isabella. Before her birth, her father and his friends expected that the baby would be “the glorious boy.” When Ada was born, everyone was disappointed.

In 1816, when Ada was one month old, Annabella took Ada with her to her parent’s home, leaving her husband. Ada did not have a good relationship with her father after the separation and he died in 1824 when she was nine.

Ada Byron was a very ill child. When she was eight, she began to have severe headaches that interfered with her ability to see. In June of 1829, Ada became paralyzed after a case of measles, and confined to her bed for almost a year. Finally in 1831 she was able to walk again with the aid of crutches.

Ada always had a good education. She was taught mathematics and science in her early years. Her tutor, Augustus De Morgan, suggested that her skill in mathematics would lead her to become “an original mathematical investigator, perhaps of first-rate eminence.”

Ada Byron met Charles Babbage in her adult years. Charles was so impressed with Adas intellect and writing skills, that he often called her “The Enchantress of Numbers.” In 1843 he wrote a dedication to her:

“Forget this world and all its troubles and if possible it’s multitudinous Charlatans – every thing in short but the Enchantress of Numbers.”

Ada Byron died at the age of thirty-six. Her physicians indicated that on November 27th, in 1852, she died of uterine cancer and bloodletting. She was buried next to her father in Hucknall, Nottingham. It was custom back then for the father to have full custody of the children in cases of separation, but no one knows why Lord Byron allowed Annabella to keep Ada. Even though their relationship was short, Ada was still buried next to him.

Contribution to Computing

The computer was invented by Charles Babbage, with whom Ada worked. Ada Byron was an English writer known for her work on the early mechanical general-purpose computer. Her notes include the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine and, as such, Ada Byron is regarded as the world’s first computer programmer.

In a nine-month period from 1842-1843, Ada Byron translated an Italian mathematician’s memoir for Charles’ newest machine. As she was translating, she compiled a set of notes for herself.

In her notes, she compiled a method for calculating a sequence of Bernoulli numbers with the engine. Had the analytical engine had ever been built, experts suggest Ada's program would have run correctly on it.

When Dorothy Stein contended that Charlie mostly wrote the programs and Ada took the credit, he defended Ada's contribution and wrote the following on the subject:

“I then suggested that she add some notes to Menabrea's memoir, an idea which was immediately adopted. We discussed together the various illustrations that might be introduced: I suggested several but the selection was entirely her own. So also was the algebraic working out of the different problems, except, indeed, that relating to the numbers of Bernoulli, which I had offered to do to save Lady Lovelace the trouble. This she sent back to me for an amendment, having detected a grave mistake which I had made in the process.”

No matter if it was truly her work or the influence of others, Ada Byron will still be widely considered as an influential women in computer programming.

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