Ada Lovelace, another unknown genius

Published on March 29, 2023

There are countless women who have been recognized for their work long after their lives. Such is the case of Ada Lovelace, “the first programmer in history”.

Pablo A. Ruz Salmones – CEO, X eleva Group

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The first time I went to the QTF studio, we talked about “Hedy Lamarr: The Mother of WiFi”, and about her magnificent life as an actress and scientist. For years, Hedy Lamarr was remembered for her incomparable beauty and her participation in the great epic films of Hollywood, and it was not until many years after her that she began to recognize her work as a scientist and pioneer of science.

And just like her, there are many women who have been recognized until later. Such is the case of Ada Lovelace, “the first programmer in history”. Ada Lovelace also has a fascinating story. She was born in 1815, and was the daughter of none other than Lord Byron.

Ada Byron, aged seven, by Alfred d'Orsay, 1822, Somerville College, Oxford
Ada Byron, seven years old, by Alfred d’Orsay, 1822, Somerville College, Oxford

However, she was separated from her father at a very young age by her mother, who was herself a woman, of great intellectual capacity, Isabella Milbanke, an English aristocrat, who was passionate about mathematics and astronomy.

The Countess of Lovelace – a title she acquired after marrying William King, Earl of Lovelace – was passionate about mathematics, art, and Creation. She began to gain notoriety by becoming professionally associated with mathematician Charles Babbage, who came to call her “the number charmer.” Charles Babbage created the design for what became known as the “Analytical Engine”: a design for a modern general-purpose computer.

When Babbage presented the design of the machine, an Italian engineer made some notes about it published in French. Babbage turned to Lovelace to translate these notes, and enlarge them if necessary. Lovelace returned with a document more than twice as long, with which she had added of her own knowledge. Those notes were signed “AAL,” and were not published under her real name until 1953 – more than 100 years after they were written.

In those notes, what is known today as a “computer algorithm” is described, and they suggested, among other things, using symbolic logic for the machine to calculate automatically. In many of Lovelace’s surviving correspondences, she mentions that, under this kind of approach, a computer could even be made to create music of any level of complexity and length, for example.

But Lovelace wasn’t just a great mathematician and computer science pioneer; she also had a wide range of interests around art, religion, and the workings of the human mind, among many other disciplines.

Portrait of Ada Lovelace
Alfred Edward Chalon, via Wikimedia Commons

Thus he spoke of divinity, saying that “…everything intellectual, moral, and religious is linked and naturally interconnected together in a harmonious and grandiose totality… that God is one, and that all the works and feelings that He has made exist are one”.

But the story of Ada Lovelace is both fascinating and tragic. From a very young age, she suffered from great pain and illnesses that, given her time, were treated with opiates, which often led her to hallucinations. She even she was partially paralyzed for a period of 3 years.

Ada Lovelace fell ill with cancer and died at the age of 36, in 1852. According to her mother, who was by her side when she died, Lovelace begged God for forgiveness for all her sins, and asked to be buried next to her. of his father, Lord Byron, with whom she never spent time and who, paradoxically, died at the age of 36, just like Lovelace.

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