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Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace, An Analyst and Metaphysician

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129943D
Original Publication Date: 1996-Sep-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 14 page(s) / 57K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

BETTY ALEXANDRA TOOLE: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

The Annals of the History of Computing has given us an excellent opportunity to gain perspective about the greatest revolution mankind has witnessed by focusing on the contributions of women. Most computer people are so caught up with the day-to-day demands that it is difficult to gain perspective. By looking at the historical context of the development of computers, we gain one aspect of life that we are quickly losing: time. Another dimension is depth or thoughtfulness, however you wish to categorize it. The story of the birth of the computer revolution gives us a firm foundation of both time and depth on which to build a quickly changing future. The story of what Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace, contributed to the birth of the computer revolution is not easy to quantify, but sometimes important contributions are not easy to see or quantify. Ada regarded herself as an ";Analyst and a Metaphysician"; and demonstrated skills that still are needed today: creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1996 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace, An Analyst and Metaphysician

BETTY ALEXANDRA TOOLE

There may be controversy about when the computer revolution began, but to me a revolution begins with an idea, and that idea was Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine conceived in 1834. The computer revolution also began with a woman, Augusta Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace, who wrote an article in 1843 that not only gave us descriptive, analytical, contextual, and metaphysical information about the Analytical Engine but also the first program." Her prescient comments have stood the test of time. Augusta Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace (1815-1852), is regarded by some people as the first programmer and by others as a science fiction archetype, perhaps as "mad and bad" as her illustrious father, Lord Byron. At the very least, Ada is one of the most colorful characters in computer history.

Introduction

The Annals of the History of Computing has given us an excellent opportunity to gain perspective about the greatest revolution mankind has witnessed by focusing on the contributions of women. Most computer people are so caught up with the day-to-day demands that it is difficult to gain perspective. By looking at the historical context of the development of computers, we gain one aspect of life that we are quickly losing: time. Another dimension is depth or thoughtfulness, however you wish to categorize it. The story of the birth of the computer revolution gives us a firm foundation of both time and depth on which to build a quickly changing future.

The story of what Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace, contributed to the birth of the computer revolution is not easy to quantify, but sometimes important contributions are not easy to see or quantify. Ada regarded herself as an "Analyst and a Metaphysician" and demonstrated skills that still are needed today: creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration.

Poetical Science

I became fascinated by Ada, the human being, when I was writing my doctoral dissertation. A chapter dealt with the history of calculating devices, and as part of my research I went to visit the Science Museum in London. Next to a model of Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine, which is now heralded by many as the first computer, was the portrait of a lovely Victorian lady (see Fig. 1). It was stated that she was Augusta Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace, who wrote a description in 1843 of Babbage's plans for the Analytical Engine. She was Lord Byron's daughter. It was the strange combination of poetry and science that intrigued me!

(Image Omitted: Fig. 1. Ada, Countess of Lovelace.)

Yet it seems to me that it was this combination that enabled Ada not only to see the value of Babbage's plans but to predict accurately some of the potentialities and ramifications of those ideas. Ada, just like her...