The World’s First Programmer.
Ada Augusta Lovelace.
On December 10, 1815 in the family of famous English poet Lord Byron, a daughter was born.
She was named as Ada Augusta. When the girl was one year old, Byron left his native land forever for the sake of struggle against injustice, which was a lot in England, but even more in other countries of Europe. He used to send tender and caring letters to Ada, devoted her poems, but never found an opportunity to meet his daughter. She was grown up by her mother, Countess of Lovelace who possessed a big and wealthy estate. The girl was very well off, but missed her father’s love.
Perhaps this fact together with high intelligence, inherited from her father, favoured Ada’s early maturation and her passion for … mathematics, a rather unusual female passion at that time.
Depriving Ada of her father, the fate was gracious to her in another things. At the very beginning of her mathematical studies, she made acquaintance with Charles Babbage, a mathematician, economist and a very educated person, who devoted his life to developing an "analytical machine" – the first in the world digital software-programmable machine.
The mankind still had to live more than a century to understand the great importance of Babbage’s idea, but Ada Augusta Lovelace (so was her name after marriage) immediately appraised her good friend’s invention and together with him tried to demonstrate what benefits it can bring to the whole mankind. One and a half century ago she wrote programs very similar to programs written later for first computers. One can only admire everything what this young woman managed to accomplish.
Babbage himself left behind only a great number of design drawings for developing an analytical machine, but this machine was never built.
In her Notes to an article of Menabrea, an Italian mathematician, who tried to describe the Babbage’s analytical machine, Ada Augusta Lovelace made amazingly precise remarks on prospects of using such machines.
"Many individuals ignorant in mathematics, think that machine has to generate data only in digital form and that the system of data processing should be more arithmetical and digital than algebraic and analytical. It is a mistake. The machine can process and combine digital values exactly in the way as if they were letters or some other symbols of general character, it can actually produce data in algebraic form … It can produce three kind of data: in symbols, in numbers and algebraic data in letters. …There is no end of line of demarcation restricting the potential of analytical machine. In fact, the analytical machine can be seen as a material and mechanical form realization of analysis."
In spite of all efforts of Babbage and Lovelace the machine was never built… Without seeing a real achievement his contemporaries got disappointed in the scientist’s work. Babbage was ahead of his time. He himself was aware of it: "Presumably, half a century would pass before somebody dares to work on such unpromising task without those instructions which I left behind me. And if someone would take over this task and succeed in real development of the machine implementing the entire executive part of mathematical analysis with simple mechanical or other means, I would not be afraid to ruin my own reputation in his favour, because only he alone might understand the nature of my efforts and importance of all results".
After Babbage’s death, the Committee of British Scientific Association having many famous scholars among its members considered the matter what to do with the uncompleted Analytical machine and what it might be recommended for. To the credit of the Committee it had concluded the following: "…The potential of the Analytical machine is so big that it can be compared to the human ceiling… Successful implementation of the machine would signify the entire era in the history of computing…"
Unfortunately, Byron’s daughter died at the age of 36…Together with an outstanding intelligence, her father transmitted her his dreadful inheritance – an early death – the poet had died the same age…
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On December 10, 2015 there will be marked by celebration 200 years since the birth of Ada Lovelace ›››
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
By Lord Byron
Canto the Third
Is thy face like thy mother's, my fair child!
Ada! sole daughter of my house and heart?
When last I saw thy young blue eyes, they smiled,
And then we parted, — not as now we part,
But with a hope. —
Awaking with a start,
The waters heave around me; and on high
The winds lift up their voices: I depart,
Whither I know not; but the hour's gone by,
When Albion's lessening shores could grieve or glad mine eye.