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Ada Lovelace

Ada Byron King (December 10, 1815 - November 27, 1852) is mainly known for having written a description of Charles Babbage's early mechanical general-purpose computer, the analytical engine.

Ada was the only legitimate child of the Romantic poet Lord Byron and his wife Annabella Milbanke. Her parents separated shortly after her birth, and she never knew her father. Biographies differ as to whether or not she lived with her mother. One claims that her mother dominated her life even after marriage, another claims she never knew either parent. One source tells that Anabella was fond of mathematics and taught Ada this art at an early stage of her life.

She was privately schooled in mathematics and science; one of her tutors was Augustus De Morgan.

Her husband was William King, later Earl of Lovelace. Her full name and title for most of her married life was Lady Augusta Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace. She is widely known in modern times simply as (Lady) Ada Lovelace. She is also referred to in some places as Ada Augusta which seems to be simply wrong.

An active member of London society, she was a member of the bluestockings in her youth.

She also knew Mary Fairfax Somerville, noted researcher and scientific author of the 19th century, who introduced her in turn to Charles Babbage. Other acquaitances were Sir David Brewster, Charles Wheatstone, Charles Dickens and Michael Faraday.

In 1843, she described Babbage's mechanical general-purpose computational device which he called the analytical engine. Her description was based on the translation of an earlier work in French, to which she added several of her own notes (see notes on the analytical engine). Despite the fact that Babbage never built a working model of his analytical engine, she specified in complete detail a method for computing Bernoulli numbers with that machine. She also speculated that such a machine could create graphics or compose music. She is often considered to be the world's first computer programmer.

However, biographers have noted that Lovelace struggled with mathematics, and there is some debate as to whether Lovelace understood deeply the concepts behind programming Babbage's engine, or was more of a figurehead used by Babbage for public relations purposes. As an early woman in computing, Lovelace occupies a politically sensitive space in the canon of historical figures in computer science, and therefore the extent of her contribution versus Babbage's remains difficult to assess based on current sources.

Ada Lovelace died at 37 of cancer, leaving 3 children.

The Ada programming language is named after her.

Her image can be seen on the Microsoft product authenticity hologram stickers.

She is one of the main characters in the alternate history novel The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson, which posits a world in which Babbage's machines were mass produced and the computer age started a century early.

See also: notes on the analytical engine

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