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Ada Lovelace

Google doodle pays tribute to original geek Ada Lovelace

Today’s Google Doodle pays tribute to an OG, original geek that is. Ada Lovelace was the daughter of poet Lord Byron, but was also a mathematical genius and computing pioneer.

Stuart Thomas: Senior Reporter
Stuart Thomas joined the Burn Media team in 2011 while finishing off an MA in South African Literature. Eager to prove his geek credentials, he allowed himself... More

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In fact, as Google points out in an official blog post, Lovelace could be considered the world’s first programmer having published the first algorithm intended for use on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine.

We largely have Lovelace’s mother Anne Isabelle Milbanke, to thank for the fact that she was so scientifically minded.

She was determined that her daughter wouldn’t fall into the same kind of behavior as Byron who was described as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”. She was therefore educated in mathematics and science from an early age.

Her fascination with computing meanwhile started at a relatively young age and, as is often the case with such things, by chance. According to Google:

After a chance encounter when aged 17, Ada became friends with Charles Babbage and grew fascinated by his idea to build an “Analytical Engine.” In 1843 Ada published a description of Babbage’s machine. While partly a translation of an Italian work, Ada added voluminous self-penned notes, which made up the bulk of the document. Included in her notes were step-by-step instructions for how the machine could calculate a sequence of Bernoulli numbers, prepared in collaboration with Babbage. In effect, this was the world’s first published algorithm.

Most importantly, the notes set out Ada’s far-reaching vision for what the Analytical Engine signified. While Babbage saw it as a mathematical calculator, Ada understood it had much more potential. She realised it was, in essence, a machine that could manipulate symbols in accordance with defined rules, and—crucially—that there was no reason the symbols had to represent only numbers and equations.

Lovelace realised that the machine could be used for mathematics and even music. It would decades before we even got close to realising her vision. You’ve got to wonder how enthralled she would’ve been with the iPad.