Daughter to the poet, Lord Byron, Ada Lovelace was born into aristocracy. Her mother feared Ada might become like her tempestuous and volatile father. And so she provided the child with a comprehensive science education in a bid to foster her sense of logic and reason.
It was unusual for girls to receive this sort of education in the 19th century, and Lovelace grew up to break many of the conventions expected of noblewomen.
At 17, she met the inventor, Charles Babbage, and began a lifelong friendship. Babbage was working on a machine known as the analytical engine, which is now recognised as a very early version of the computer.
Lovelace became fascinated and began contributing to the project. Dubbed ‘the Enchantress of Numbers’ by Babbage, she wrote reams of notes about the pioneering invention. Her observations include codes that could help to instruct and guide the machine, and predictions about its potential uses.
Her revolutionary work on the analytical engine has earned her recognition as the world’s first computer programmer. Although she died young, Lovelace made a huge impact in her lifetime. Her observations inspired Alan Turing’s work on the first modern computers in the 1940s, and today Lovelace is recognised as an early computing pioneer.
Last updated: 01 February 2018