Unsung heroes of tech: Ada Lovelace
By CGLife - January 18, 2019
Ada is an early example of tech hero, being born into English nobility in 1815. She is also totally unique in our list of heroes as she developed and wrote an algorithm for a computer that didn’t yet exist.
Ada was the child of English poet Lord Byron and grew up with all the benefits of being a member of the aristocracy. She was born at a time when women were not educated to anything like the same standard as men and were usually kept out of the ‘hard’ disciplines of science, mathematics and philosophy. However, from the word go Ada was just too talented and tenacious to be ignored.
Early on, Ada developed an interest in mathematics (which she saw as a way to escape the famous family ‘insanity’) and this interest became her passion as she grew and developed.
Ada was ambitious and refused to let society’s view of her gender stand in her way. Throughout her education she developed an approach which she described as ‘poetical science’, calling herself an ‘analyst and metaphysician’. She specialised in using the relationships she built with people to further her academic aims and managed to navigate a world extremely hostile to the achievement of women.
Ada befriended many prominent figures (particularly scientists) of the Victorian period. She was friends with Andrew Crosse, Michael Faraday and Charles Dickens. However, her closest and most important friendship was with the ‘father of computers’: Charles Babbage.
Babbage designed the ‘analytical engine’, the first computer ever. Ada was his collaborator on the project and her famous (and humbly named) ‘Notes’ are the reason for her inclusion on this list.
In 1842 Ada translated an article by Italian engineer Luigi Menabrea (she was also gifted at languages) on Babbage’s analytical engine for Babbage to read. Around the translation to this article Ada wrote her ‘notes’ which are widely considered to contain the first ever computer program.
Ada saw the capacity of computers to do more than just crunch numbers, which many of her contemporaries (including Babbage) were utterly blind to. Where would we be today if computers were just glorified calculators?
Ada’s achievements were overlooked in her lifetime and have rarely been talked about since. However, if Babbage is to be known as the ‘father of computers’ then surely Ada is the mother, or at least, the cool aunt. She created the first ever computer program, and in a world rapidly being eaten by software the importance of this cannot be overstated. She imagined a world where computers were more than calculating machines and despite the sexist society of her day, fought her way into the intellectual elite to leave her mark on history.
Ada Lovelace’s legacy has always been there, however for hundreds of years she has remained unsung. At Convergence we’re singing her praises; Ada, you’re a tech hero!