Woman Of The Week: Ada Lovelace

The Enchantress of Numbers

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Ada Lovelace was the first ever computer programmer. This becomes even more impressive when you realise that she wrote the first ever line of code in 1842. She is an inspiration to women in technology and beyond.  

Lovelace was born Ada Gordon in 1815, daughter of the poet Lord Byron and his mathematics-loving wife Annabella Milbanke. As a child she was fascinated by machines, and designed everything from boats to steam flying machines. At 19 she was married to the aristocrat, William King, Earl of Lovelace, but continued working.

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In 1833, Lovelace’s mentor, the scientist Mary Sommerville introduced her to Charles Babbage, a professor of mathematics. They became good friends and he named her the ‘Enchantress of Numbers.’ They worked together to develop a device called the Analytical Engine. This was never built, but the design had all the elements of a modern computer. Lovelace’s reports on the machine included early computer programs, which were the first to be published. Her notes were crucial in inspiring Alan Turing’s work on the first modern computers in the 1940s.

Today is Ada Lovelace day, an international celebration of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. The event is about sharing inspiring stories of women in science, to create role models for girls and women who may be unsure about entering such a male-dominated field.