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Ada Lovelace: 'The Enchantress of Numbers' (+video)

Ada Lovelace was the visionary half of the team that helped create the modern computer. Lovelace is honored by Google as the 'first computer programmer.'

Science in Seconds - Ada Lovelace
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Ada Lovelace is honored today by Google for her contribution to computer science. She is variously described as the "first computer programmer" and the inventor of the algorithm.

But Ada Lovelace might have become an historical footnote – the only legitimate daughter of Romantic poet Lord Byron – were it not for her relationship with Charles Babbage, the "father of the computer."

Their work together illustrates the adage: "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts." Yes, Babbage conceived of the "Difference Engine" and the "Analytical Engine." But it was Ada that was able to see the wider applications, the potential beyond its use as a sophisticated calculator.

Ada Lovelace met Babbage in 1833, when she was just 17. He was a professor of mathematics at Cambridge University. Her mother, in an attempt to steer her away from the "dangerous poetic tendencies" of her father, had her tutored in math and music. Her knack for math quickly became apparent.

She and Babbage began to meet regularly and correspond. She was fascinated with his Difference Engine and later the Analytical Engine. Moreover, she had the mathematical chops to understand how it worked – and the vision to see its potential.

Babbage described her as "the Enchantress of Numbers," according to Betty Alexandra Toole's biography.


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