Saturday, March 19, 2016

Women who Dare #2

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (née Byron; 10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852) was an English mathematician and writer, chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage's early mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Her notes on the engine include what is recognised as the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine. As a result, she is often regarded as the first computer programmer.

Ada Lovelace was the only legitimate child of the poet George Lord Byron and his wife Anne Isabella Milbanke ("Annabella"), Lady Wentworth.  All Byron's other children were born out of wedlock to other women. Byron separated from his wife a month after Ada was born and left England forever four months later, eventually dying of disease in the Greek War of Independence when Ada was eight years old. Her mother remained bitter towards Lord Byron and promoted Ada's interest in mathematics and logic in an effort to prevent her from developing what she saw as the insanity seen in her father, but Ada remained interested in him despite this (and was, upon her eventual death, buried next to him at her request). Often ill, she spent most of her childhood sick. Ada married William Lord King in 1835. King was made Earl of Lovelace in 1838, and she became Lady Lovelace.

Her educational and social exploits brought her into contact with scientists such as Andrew Crosse, Sir David Brewster, Charles Wheatstone, Michael Faraday and the author Charles Dickens, in which she used to further her education. Ada described her approach as "poetical science" and herself as an "Analyst (& Metaphysician)"

As a teenager, her mathematical talents led her to an ongoing working relationship and friendship with fellow British mathematician Charles Babbage, also known as 'the father of computers', and in particular, Babbage's work on the Analytical Engine. Lovelace first met him in June 1833, through their mutual friend, and her private tutor, Mary Somerville. Between 1842 and 1843, Ada translated an article by Italian military engineer Luigi Menabrea on the engine, which she supplemented with an elaborate set of notes, simply called Notes. These notes contain what many consider to be the first computer program—that is, an algorithm designed to be carried out by a machine. Lovelace's notes are important in the early history of computers. She also developed a vision of the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching, while many others, including Babbage himself, focused only on those capabilities. Her mind-set of "poetical science" led her to ask questions about the Analytical Engine (as shown in her notes) examining how individuals and society relate to technology as a collaborative tool.

She died of uterine cancer in 1852 at the age of 36.

Byron expected his baby to be a "glorious boy" and was disappointed when his wife gave birth to a girl. Augusta was named after Byron's half-sister, Augusta Leigh, and was called "Ada" by Byron himself
On 16 January 1816 Annabella, at Byron's behest, left for her parents' home  taking one-month-old Ada with her. Although English law at the time gave fathers full custody of their children in cases of separation, Byron made no attempt to claim his parental right but did request that his sister keep him informed of Ada's welfare On 21 April Byron signed the Deed of Separation, although very reluctantly, and left England for good a few days later. Aside from an acrimonious separation, Annabella continually made allegations about Byron's immoral behaviour throughout her life.
This set of events made Ada famous in Victorian society. Byron did not have a relationship with his daughter, and never saw her again. He died in 1824 when she was eight years old. Her mother was the only significant parental figure in her life. Ada was not shown the family portrait of her father (covered in green shroud) until her twentieth birthday.] Her mother became Baroness Wentworth in her own right in 1856.
Annabella did not have a close relationship with the young Ada, and often left her in the care of her own mother Judith, Hon. Lady Milbanke, who doted on her grandchild. However, because of societal attitudes of the time—which favoured the husband in any separation, with the welfare of any child acting as mitigation—Annabella had to present herself as a loving mother to the rest of society. This included writing anxious letters to Lady Milbanke about Ada's welfare, with a cover note saying to retain the letters in case she had to use them to show maternal concern. In one letter to Lady Milbanke, she referred to Ada as "it": "I talk to it for your satisfaction, not my own, and shall be very glad when you have it under your own." In her teenage years, several of her mother's close friends watched Ada for any sign of moral deviation. Ada dubbed these observers the "Furies", and later complained they exaggerated and invented stories about her
Ada was often ill, beginning in early childhood. At the age of eight, she experienced headaches that obscured her vision.In June 1829, she was paralysed after a bout of measles. She was subjected to continuous bed rest for nearly a year, which may have extended her period of disability. By 1831, she was able to walk with crutches. Despite being ill Ada developed her mathematical and technological skills. At age 12 this future "Lady Fairy", as Charles Babbage affectionately called her, decided she wanted to fly. Ada went about the project methodically, thoughtfully, with imagination and passion. Her first step in February 1828, was to construct wings. She investigated different material and sizes. She considered various materials for the wings: paper, oilsilk, wires and feathers. She examined the anatomy of birds to determine the right proportion between the wings and the body. She decided to write a book Flyology illustrating, with plates, some of her findings. She decided what equipment she would need, for example, a compass, to "cut across the country by the most direct road", so that she could surmount mountains, rivers and valleys. Her final step was to integrate steam with the "art of flying"

                              - extracted from Wikipedia

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