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Ada Lovelace | Five Facts About the World’s First Computer Programmer

Dominique Adams


Ada Lovelace Day - Phoebe Quinn
In celebration of Ada Lovelace Day, DIGIT has compiled a list of five facts about this extraordinary woman.

Created in 2009, Ada Lovelace Day is a worldwide event aimed at promoting and celebrating pioneering women working science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM).

The day has inspired celebrations and events around the world, including one here in Scotland by way of the Ada Scotland Festival, which brings together partners involved in addressing the issue of gender balance in Computing Science education in Scotland.

The day of celebration takes its name from Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer known for her work on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine.

Born in 1815, Lovelace lived a tragically short life, dying at the age of 36. However, her legacy has inspired generations of young women and girls to study STEM subjects and pursue careers in technology and science.

Here are five facts about Ada Lovelace that you may not have known.

Growing up, Lovelace had a remarkable nickname

As a child, Lovelace’s nickname was ‘Princess of Parallelograms’, bestowed upon her by her famous father, the poet Lord Byron.

Later, enthralled by her brain, her mentor Charles Babbage nicknamed her the ‘Enchantress of Numbers’.

She suffered with gambling issues

Ada Lovelace

Lovelace is recorded as having had a serious gambling problem, which contributed to her declining finances and led to her pawning the family’s diamonds.

On one particular occasion, she lost £3,200 betting on a horse at the Epsom Derby. Notably, Lovelace even put her programming skills to use trying to predict the outcome of races.

Lovelace and her father both died young

Both Lovelace and her father died at the age of 36. It is believed that she likely died from uterine cancer.

Although she never knew her father, who died abroad when she was eight years old, Lovelace was deeply fascinated by him and requested to be buried alongside Lord Byron in the family vault inside the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Hucknall.

She had a legendary mentor

Babbage, who is considered to be ‘the father of the computer’, was Ada’s mentor. After she was taken under his tutelage she translated into English an article by Luigi Menabrea – military engineer and future Italian prime minister – about her mentor’s theoretical analytical engine.

She added her own notes about the analytical engine that were three times as long as the original paper and it was published in an English journal in 1843 with only her initials, A.A.L.

Lovelace was way ahead of her time

Ada Lovelace

At the age of 12, Lovelace conceptualised a flying machine after studying the anatomy of birds and the suitability of various materials. She illustrated her plans to build a winged flying apparatus before she began to think about powered flight.

She wrote to her mother: “I have got a scheme to make a thing in the form of a horse with a steam engine in the inside so contrived as to move an immense pair of wings, fixed on the outside of the horse, in such a manner as to carry it up into the air while a person sits on its back.”

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Dominique Adams

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