Ada Lovelace: The Enchantress of Numbers



Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron and Annabella Millbanke, was born on December 10, 1815.  After her parents separation,  she was raised alone by her mother.  Annabella was determined that her daughter would not fall victim to the ways of her, “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”- father.   Annabella further believed that the way to avoid such madness was to strengthen one’s mind.  Therefore, despite a very sickly childhood which often kept her bedridden, Ada was given an intense education focusing on science and math.

During this time, Ada was tutored by such notables as  the social reformer, William Frend;  the polymath, Mary Somerville; and the British mathmatician, Augustus De Morgan.

On June 5, 1833, Mary Somerville introduced Ada to Charles Babbage, the English mechanical engineer and inventor.  They corresponded often regarding Babbage’s plans for building a Difference Engine, and later, an Analytical Engine.   Impressed by Ada’s scientific mind and passion for mathematics, Babbage nicknamed her, “The Enchantress of Numbers”.

In 1843, Ada translated an Italian article on Babbage’s plans for his Analytical Engine.  In her notes,  she advanced a process for calculating an order of Bernoulli numbers.  Unfortunately, the Analytical Engine was never built in their lifetime due to lack of funds.  However, it has been discovered that her sequence of numbers would have run perfectly.  Thus, Ada is considered to be the very first computer progammer in the world.

Ada Lovelace died of uterine cancer on November 27, 1852.  She was thirty-seven.

The United States Department of Defense named the computer language, Ada, in her honor.


The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

21 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Excellent post. And interesting historical figure, especially considering the times she lived in.

  2. Thanks so much, Ralfast.

    My steampunk research led me to Babbage who led me to Ada. And she’s a character in the novel, THE DIFFERENCE ENGINE, which I’m devouring now.

    Hope you’re feeling better, btw.

  3. Mothers like that are an inspiration to us all. Make sure your kids get a good grounding in science and math, and they could change the world! 🙂

    Interesting post, too. It makes me wonder what Ada Lovelace would think if she could see computers now.

  4. Extraordinary woman. Stories like this always make me wonder how many great women wasted their intellect because of the times they lived in. Very sad. I think it’s great that you have highlighted her and given her some well-deserved attention.

  5. Marian,

    Good point!

    Unfortunately, I’m lacking when it comes to math skills. But reading up on such people and topics gets me intrigued…

  6. DD,

    Very true. It really seems it was luck of the draw. Some women from middle class and upper families got quite lucky with parents who really encouraged them in their studies. And those in the leisure classes had the time to really devote themselves to those studies.

    With those women, yes, one wonders what could have been if they had been allowed into universities and professions.

  7. Oh, and I did find it cool to discover she was the daughter of Lord Byron. Considering the posts I’d written on him and his group.

  8. COOLNESS!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 Love learning this sort of stuff! 🙂

    I bumped into a professor of medieval french literature on the subway the other day and we ended up talking for a while about all the accomplished and educated women of history, and how you’d not necessarily know it from our history books.

    This was awesome to read about. If I end up with a female character named Ada, I blame you. And Ada, of course. 🙂 *senses it’s actually real possible* 🙂 🙂

  9. Tasha, how cool! And I think I really need to read this book…

  10. Sput,

    That’s one of the wonderful side affects of researching the 19th century. Discovering all these women whose accomplishments have been largely ignored.

  11. Amy,

    The DIFFERENCE ENGINE is a total blast. Definitely pick yourself up a copy if you can.

  12. Fascinating woman and story. I’ve been meaning to read The Difference Engine. So many books, so little time. 🙂

  13. Very interesting! It boggles my mind how people can be so good with numbers as I am mathematically challenged.

  14. Me too, Dara. Me too!

  15. Math is not my forte either, so I’m all the more in awe of people who can do calculus and other such brainy things.

    Sadly, it’s difficult to depict math skills in action scenes. You can do this really easily with physics (MacGyver) and chemistry (show your character building crude bombs). But math… not so much. If there was such a way, I would so take it.

  16. Fascinating stuff! I’d heard of Ada before, but didn’t know about the Byron connection.

  17. Interesting to read of Lord Byron in a different light than as a renowned writer/thinker.

    I just love these smart women in a time that was all about men.

    As always, awesome post. I too love lerning things like this.

  18. Fascinating!How many other incredible women has history forgotten? I’ve never heard of Ada, and now I’m intrigued.

  19. Hi Robyn,

    Thank you for stopping over at my blog.

    One of my favorite parts of studying history is rediscovering these fascinating women.

  20. Thanks Dominique and Em- glad you both enjoyed the post. 🙂

  21. “However, it has been discovered that her sequence of numbers would have run perfectly. Thus, Ada is considered to be the very first computer progammer in the world.”

    And no other computer program has run perfectly since! 😀

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: