Ada Lovelace was an English mathematician and writer who is often considered to be the first computer programmer. In her teenage years, Lovelace’s mathematical talents and intellect led her to enter into a working relationship and friendship with Charles Babbage. Babbage is often referred to as, ‘the father of computers’ and was responsible for introducing Lovelace to his invention, the difference engine, which was designed to perform mathematical calculations. Babbage also created plans for another device known as the analytical engine which would handle more complex calculations than his previous machine. Lovelace was fascinated by Babbage’s analytical engine and the ways in which it could be used beyond calculating and number crunching.
Between 1842 and 1843, Lovelace was asked to translate an article written about Babbage’s machine by the Italian mathematician and engineer Luigi Federico. She not only translated the original text, but she also included a number of her own notes, annotations, and thoughts about the machine. Her notes were nearly three times longer than the original article and contained what most people consider to be the first computer program – that is, an algorithm designed to be carried out by a machine. In her notes she described how codes could be created to include symbols and letter along with numbers, and she also theorized a method for the device to repeat a series of instructions. Both of these things are processes and practices that are still used in computer programs today.
Ada Lovelace’s notes were published in an English science journal in 1843, and while they didn’t receive much recognition during her lifetime they are still considered extremely important to the early history of computers and computing processes.
March is Women’s History Month and at Disruptor’s Handbook, we want to take this chance to recognise some of the inspirational and influential women that have made a difference in the world of technology! Check back next Friday to find out about another amazing woman in tech.