Augusta Ada Lovelace
(née Byron), 1815-1852

Augusta Ada Byron was born on 10 December 1815. She was named after Augusta, Byron's half sister, who had been his mistress. After Byron had left for the Continent with a parting shot - 'When shall we three meet again?' - Ada was brought up by her mother.

The lines from Childe Harold were very well known:-

`Is thy face like thy mother's, my fair child!
Ada! sole daughter of my house and of my heart?
When last I saw thy young blue eyes they smiled'
And then we parted,-not as now we part,
but with a hope.'

and as Byron's daughter Ada acquired the romance that attached to everyone associated with that magnificent poete maudit.

In 1833 Ada met Babbage and was fascinated with both him and his Engines. Later Ada became a competent student of mathematics, which was most unusual for a woman at the time. She translated a paper on Babbage's Engines by General Menabrea, later to be prime minister of the newly united Italy. Under Babbage's careful supervision Ada added extensive notes (c.f. Science and Reform, Selected Works of Charles Babbage, by Anthony Hyman) which constitute the best contemporary description of the Engines, and the best account we have of Babbage's views on the general powers of the Engines. Beautiful, charming, temperamental, an aristocratic hostess, mathematicians of the time thought her a magnificent addition to their number.

It is often suggested that Ada was the world's first programmer. This is nonsense: Babbage was, if programmer is the right term. After Babbage came a mathematical assistant of his, Babbage's eldest son, Herschel, and possibly Babbage's two younger sons. Ada was probably the fourth, fifth or six person to write the programmes. Moreover all she did was rework some calculations Babbage had carried out years earlier. Ada's calculations were student exercises. Ada Lovelace figures in the history of the Calculating Engines as Babbage's interpretress, his `fairy lady'. As such her achievement was remarkable.


Doris Langley Moore, Ada, Countess of Lovelace, Byron's legitimate daughter, John Murray, London, 1977.
By the chronicler of the Byron family. Concentrates on Ada's mother, Lady Noel Byron.

Dorothy Stein, Ada, A Life and a Legacy, MIT, Mass. 1984.
A feminist view.

Betty Alexandra Toole, Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers, Strawberry Press, 227, Strawberry Drive, Mill Valley, Marin County, CA 94941, 1992.
A felicitous selection of Ada's letters.

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Maintainer & date: October 01, 1996