You have probably heard of Alan Turing, known for many accomplishments, including creating the first computer basis. The computer scientist you probably haven’t heard about is Ada Lovelace, who paved the way for Turing.

Early life

Augusta Ada Byron, married Ada Lovelace, was born on December 15, 1815, to Lady Byron and English poet and politician Lord Byron. Lovelace spent her childhood in the care of her mother and grandparents. Lady Byron spared no expense having Lovelace tutored in math and science in an attempt to keep her daughter from following in her father’s footsteps, sparking her interest in the field at a young age.

As a result of her intelligence and her aristocratic upbringing, at 17 years old Ada met Charles Babbage who was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. He introduced her to his invention, the calculating machine he referred to as “the difference machine.” Fascinated, Ada and her mother began frequently visiting machine factories so she could continue studying them.

Contributions to computer programming

In 1838 Babbage developed a new machine, far more advanced than the first, known as “The Analytical Engine.” Lovelace then translated Luigi Federico Menabrea’s essay, Sketches of Charles Babbage’s Analytical Machine,from French to English. In doing so, she contributed many of her own notes and ideas. 

Lovelace proved a full understanding of the machine and how it differed from Babbage’s original “difference machine.” Her notes also offer that the science applied by the machine could be used for other purposes, such as composing music. This understanding that a computer could go beyond pure mathematical calculations was the first of its time and revolutionized the understanding of the computer.

Recognition and reception

Lovelace’s contributions went largely unnoticed until approximately 100 years after her death. But men still scrutinize the legitimacy of these contributions. Some claim she was too mentally ill to be intelligent. Others claim that the ideas were Babbage’s. Essentially, Lovelace’s intelligence faces the same scrutiny that women in STEM fields face every day.

Within the past few years, Ada Lovelace has become admired in the STEM fields as an inspiration for women. Some STEM communities now even celebrate “Ada Lovelace day” in early October. A variety of science-based organizations offer awards to women in the field in Lovelace’s honor as well. 

Lovelace has become well respected by some. However, this respect doesn’t negate how long it took for her to become revered. An unacceptable amount of men attempt to discredit her influence, blaming her mental health and accusing her of lying. Unsurprisingly, men in the STEM field rarely face accusations such as these without reasonable cause.

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