“If you can’t give me poetry, can’t you give me poetical science?”
Ada Lovelace died on this day, 27 November 1852.
She was an English mathematician chiefly known because she wrote the world’s first computer program for Charles Babbage’s huge mechanical computer, “The Analytical Engine”.
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace was born in December 1815 and was the only legitimate child of Lord Byron, who left England forever only a few months after her birth.
Ada never met her father again and was raised by her mother Annabella Milbanke who did not want her to follow in her father’s footsteps. Therefore she was immersed in mathematics and other scientific disciplines to counter dangerous poetic tendencies
When she was eighteen, she visited Babbage, saw a demonstration of the prototype of his calculating machine and was fascinated by it. Also Babbage was very impressed with young Ada’s mind and her analytic skills and coined for her the nickname “The Enchantress of Numbers”.
Babbage believed the use of his machines was confined to numerical calculations but, since she was a visionary, she predicted that computers could do more than just crunch numbers. A century before the dawn of the computer age, Ada imagined the modern-day, general-purpose computer, which could be programmed to follow instructions.
She mused that any piece of content (including music, text, pictures and sounds) could be translated to digital form and manipulated by a machine able to “weave algebraic patterns just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves.”
Ada died of uterine cancer exacerbated by bloodletting, a common practice at the time, in 1852, when she was still 36 years old, the same age her father had passed away.
At her request her coffin was placed at side-by-side with that of her father, in the graveyard of St Mary Magdalene Church in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire.
In the late 1970s, the U.S. Department of Defense developed an object-oriented high-level programming language to supplant the hundreds of different ones in use by the military.
This new language, with its focus on software engineering, was named ADA in her honour,
“Se non sapete darmi la poesia, non potreste darmi la scienza poetica?”
“…la Macchina Analitica tesse motivi algebrici proprio come il telaio Jacquard tesse fiori e foglie”