Considering the stifling social expectations and restraints on women’s behavior in the Victorian era, it is a wonderment that any woman rose to scholarly or scientific prominence. We are familiar with a few women of science from that era—notably, Madame Curie and Florence Nightingale. But the “Enchantress of Numbers” and “Founder of Scientific Computing,” Ada Lovelace, is a bit off our radar, in part, perhaps, because of the esoteric nature of her mathematical work.
Lovelace came to fame because of her work with Charles Babbage, the British “father of computers.” Babbage created the idea of the first mechanized computer, which was referred to as an Analytical Engine. One might call Babbage the “hardware guy” and Lovelace the “software lady.”
Lovelace was the daughter of the famous British poet Lord Byron and Lady Anne Isabella Byron. Her parents divorced, and she was raised by her mother, who insisted Ada be tutored primarily in math and science, rather than in letters as her father had been. Ade displayed a brilliant aptitude for mathematics, and later, working with Babbage, she wrote an algorithm for the Analytical Engine to compute Bernoulli numbers. (It should be noted that the Analytical Engine was not competed in Lovelace’s or Babbage’s lifetimes; only a prototype was.) Sadly, Ada died at the young age of thirty-six due to uterine cancer.
So, today, I doff my bonnet to dear Ada. Happy birthday, love! Your accomplishments greatly impress us all.