Ada Lovelace-why is she considered the first programmer?
Many people consider her to be the first programmer in the world, but there are also voices questioning her achievements. Ada Lovelace, as she is referred to here, 165 years after her death continues to stir controversy and ignite the minds of researchers. Who was this English mathematician and poet really? Did she really write the first algorithm for a “computer” that was never built?
Ada Lovelace’s programming language (Ada) was named after her in 1980, and her likeness looks back at us from holograms that Microsoft uses to authenticate its products. The character ada appeared in literature (the science fiction novel The Difference Machine by Bruce Sterling and William gibbon, the theatrical play Arkadia by Tom Stoppard) and in the computer game LittleBigPlanet. Countless articles have been written about this woman, and many books have been devoted to her character. Did all of this really help us get to know this controversial figure? Can we really call her a programmer?
Ada Lovelace-Countess, poet, mathematician
Ada Lovelace, or Augusta Ada King (Countess Lovelace) was born on December 10, 1815 in London. Her father was the famous poet George Byron (also known as Lord Byron), and her mother was Annabella Milbanke, who a month after the birth of the child took little Ada and left the Lord, tired of his eccentricities and follies. Our heroine spent her childhood outside London, moving with her mother from place to place. Annabella made sure that her daughter received a thorough education, which in 19th-century England was not so common when it comes to women.
Growing up, Ada was fascinated by the poetry and character of her father (she was ordered to be buried next to him after death). Her mother was not happy with this and tried to interest her daughter in mathematics and logic. Ada, indeed, quickly fell in love with everything connected with numbers, but she tried to combine mathematics with poetry, approached the sciences in an unusual way. Her teachers were m.in. William frend, Mary Somerville, Augustus De Morgan – one of the most prominent logicians of the XIX century and William King, whom she married, soon becoming Countess Lovelace. This allowed her to return to London, where at that time the scientific life of England was concentrated.
The year 1833 proved to be a turning point in Ada Lovelace’s life. She met Charles Babbage then, and that’s what made her go down in history, firing up the minds of researchers over the years. Young ada looked at the prototype of Babbage’s differential machine, and in fact only the part of it that managed to be constructed. The machine quickly fascinated the mathematician, but soon after Babbage introduced the idea of the device, which made today often called this mathematician “the father of computers”.
Babbage’s analytical machine, an unfulfilled dream
Charles Babbage was undoubtedly an outstanding man, a visionary who was ahead of his time. He was born on 26 December 1791 in Walworth, and died 80 years later in London. He was a man of many talents. He was engaged in astronomy, mechanics, and above all mathematics. He was the author of logarithmic tables, taught at the University of Cambridge. He organized many societies and scientific organizations in England, but above all he was a designer. His first big invention was the differential machine, which Ada Lovelace had just seen. This machine was supposed to reduce complex calculations to simple addition. Babbage even received a huge grant for this device from the British prime minister, but after 12 years of work, only a fragment of the differential machine was able to be constructed. The complete device was built only by the science museum in London in 1989-1991. But the concept alone was enough to fascinate Ada Lovelace with Babbage’s inventions.
Soon the noble Cambridge professor presented the first design of the analytical machine. Babbage wanted to create a machine that could do every possible calculation. Its design was to be mechanical, and the whole was to be driven by a steam engine. Data was entered using punched cards (an idea borrowed from Joseph jacquard, who programmed his weaving looms in this way). Babbage developed a design concept that involved separating a memory (storage) from a computing unit (mill), which is similar to the design of modern computers.
Unfortunately, the analytical machine was never really created and did not go completely beyond the conceptual stage. Later it was tried several times to build it. In 1910, Babbage’s son constructed only part of the mechanism, in 2011 a group of inventors in the UK announced their intention to build a complete analytical machine, but then information on this ceased to appear.
Although the idea of Charles Babbage was not realized, it fascinated Ada Lovelace, who in her writings tried to think about the possibility of such a machine and wondered how it could be used.
At that time, the brilliant designer was still trying to raise funds to build an analytical machine. Finally in 1840 he went to Turin for a congress of mathematicians and engineers.
Algorithm and controversy
Babbage’s lecture in Turin included the military engineer Luigi Menabrea, who wrote an article on the analytical machine in French in 1840. Ada Lovelace has translated this text into English. She corrected errors and supplemented information, because no one, except Babbage and herself, knew the concept of the analytical machine so well. As a result, the translation turned out to be three times longer than the original article. It was there that Ada wrote that the machine was not only to count, but also to perform any processes that would change the relationship between at least two things. The machine was supposed to return numerical and symbolic results. Just in this article Ada described the algorithm for calculating Bernoulli numbers, thanks to which she gained the title of the first programmer in the world after years. Lovelace described the operation sequences and how they should be coded into the machine. She presented a recursive algorithm (the result of one task is the starting point for the next). It took 75 punched cards to generate one number, and the rest of the process was iterative. Lovelace wrote about Operation cards (they set the parts of the machine to perform the declared actions, determine the order of operations) and about variable cards (they specify the columns of the machine that indicate the results).
[The Analytical Engine] might act upon other things besides number, were objects found whose mutual fundamental relations could be expressed by those of the abstract science of operations, and which should be also susceptible of adaptations to the action of the operating notation and mechanism of the engine…Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relationships of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent
Lovelace, Ada; Menabrea, Luigi (1842). “Sketch of the analytical engine invented by Charles Babbage Esq.”. Scientific Memoirs. Richard Taylor: 694.
The above paper secured Ada Lovelace a place in the history of mathematics, and above all in the history of computers and programming. A British mathematician has been hailed as the world’s first computer programmer.
However, some inquisitive researchers had doubts about this title. An example is the Australian specialist in the history of computer science, Allan Bromley, who in his book computing before computer questioned the authorship of the algorithm attributed to Ada Lovelace. The Australian studied the writings of Charles Babbage and found that the algorithm was written a few years earlier by a British mathematician. Bromley is of the opinion that there is no evidence that Lovelace wrote a program for the analysis machine, and from her letters to Babbage it is clear that she could not even do it. A similar opinion was expressed by the British historian Martin Campbell-Kelly, proving that it was Babbage himself who suggested the idea to Ada using the example of Bernoulli numbers and showed the formula of the algorithm. This view was also supported by Dr. Bruce Collier in Babbage’s biography The Little engines that could’ve: the calculating machines of Charles Babbage. No one has presented clear, convincing evidence to support these claims. The authors relied on circumstantial evidence.
However, the fact is that the algorithm and the proposal for its implementation were included in the work she translated, which was significantly expanded compared to the Italian original. That is why she is widely considered to be the first programmer.
Legacy Of Ada
Ada Lovelace died of poverty and disease on November 27, 1852, at only 36 years old. The last years of her life were an increasing addiction to gambling (she thought that mathematical skills would help her win), growing debts, and developing uterine cancer. She was buried in St Mary Magdalene’s church, Hucknall, next to Lord Byron. Her legend has survived to this day. For many women, she is a great inspiration.
Ada Lovelace’s opponents are protesting the attribution of the algorithm to her, but they’re just speculating. Regardless, it cannot be denied that Countess Lovelace was an outstanding person who, in her writings, applied concepts that would influence how the first computer was created a century later. In reasoning about the possibilities of numerical numbers far ahead of her contemporaries. She did not think of them as a calculator, but multifunctional machines with wide applications-and here she was not completely mistaken.