Ada Lovelace

1815 - 1852

Ada Byron, daughter of poet Lord Byron, had mathematical training and met mathematician and computer pioneer Charles Babbage in 1833 at a society party. She was seventeen at the time. In 1835 she married William King and in 1838 became Countess Lovelace when her husband was elevated. Mathematical training and interest in mathematics or science was unusual for women in the early Victorian period. Women we barred from universities and did not publish scientific papers under their own names. Lovelace translated from French an article on Babbage's Analytical Engine written by an Italian engineer after he heard Babbage describe the Engine in Turin in 1840. Lovelace added extensive notes of her own that describe the principles and significance of the Engine and these ran to three times the length of the original text. While her work was based on Babbage's, she saw beyond Babbage and understood that computers had much more general use than just doing numerical calculations. Her Notes, published in 1843, contain an example of an algorithm - a series of exact steps performed by the Engine to arrive at a particular result, in this case, a mathematical result. This was the first publication of an algorithm and has led to her being called 'the first programmer'. The idea of an algorithm remains a basic concept of just about all computer programs. Ada died of cancer aged 37 in 1852.

Visionary of the computer age.