remember the programming pioneer that Queen Elizabeth admired

Ada Lovelace was the first person to design an algorithm in the world

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Women have always developed technological solutions in the world, although this is underestimated in history. And the biggest proof is Ada Lovelace, the first person to design an algorithm in the world. On Developer’s Day, which is celebrated this Tuesday (13 Byte recalls the history of this pioneer who gained recognition even from Queen Elizabeth II.

Not surprisingly, many people believe that technology is a male field: according to research by Catho, a company that helps find jobs, although the percentage of women in technology positions has increased, it is 23.6%, while men occupy 76.4%. % of the sector.

But in 2019, in the week of International Women’s Day, Queen Elizabeth, who died last week, posted on her Instagram celebrating the achievements of Lovelace and her studio partner, Charles Babbage.

The Queen wrote of her visit to the Science Museum in London, where she discovered a letter Babbage had written to his great-great-grandfather, Prince Albert, in 1843, talking about the invention of the “analytical engine”, an important feat he had achieved with Ada Lovelace.

Who was Ada Lovelace?

Ada Lovelace was born in 1815 in London and was the daughter of the poet Lord Byron and the mathematician Annabella Milbanke Byron. When he was only two months old, his parents split up, mainly due to Byron’s disappointment at having a girl.

Lovelace inherited her mother’s fascination with numbers, and throughout her childhood she always studied a lot of music, French and, of course, mathematics – all this was for her mother a way to prevent the girl from going crazy, as her father had.

At the age of 17, Ada Lovelace met the English mathematician and scientist Mary Sommerville. A translator and contributor to the works of the French mathematician and physicist Pierre-Simon Laplace, Somerville was the first woman to join the Royal Astronomical Society, along with Caroline Hershel.

At a dinner at the Sommerviles’ home, Lovelace was introduced to the mathematician Charles Babbage, who showed him his inventions and later became a close friend. Babbage devised an invention called the difference method or differential engine, which he presented to Lovelace. It was capable of mechanically performing polynomial calculations (a type of equation) and had the ability to receive data, process it, store it, and display it.

The Analytical Engine and the Influence of Ada Lovelace

After marrying William King-Noel in 1835 and changing her father’s surname to “Byron”, Ada Lovelace suffers from illness and begins to study with Augustus de Morgan, the first professor of mathematics at the University of London. At that time, he got back in touch with Babbage and discovered his new project, much more advanced than the previous one: the Analytical Engine.

After the differential engine, Babbage tried to create one capable of performing complex operations. Lovelace realized that the machine was also capable of processing symbols, such as artistic notations, text and images.

Ada added important discoveries to Babbage's Analytical Engine that changed computing in the world

Ada added important discoveries to Babbage’s Analytical Engine that changed computing in the world

Photo: Creative Commons

In 1842, Babbage attended a seminar in Turin, Italy, where he presented the calculations and results of the Analytical Engine. The entire presentation was attended by the mathematician Luigi Menabrea, who translated it all into an article for the Universal Library in Geneva. Soon Babbage asked Lovelace to translate the article into English and add his own notes.

The translation with all of Lovelace’s notes was three times the length of Menabre’s original article, and was divided into graded notes from A to G. Grade G became known as the first program or algorithm computer in the world, capable of calculating “Bernoulli numbers” (strings of rational numbers with deep connections in number theory). Lovelace also wrote that the invention would still be able to create images.

Some of these notes compared the design of the analytical machine to the way weaving machines work. They follow patterns to make complete designs on cloth, and Lovelace envisioned that the Analytical Engine could also follow patterns—or codes—not only to calculate numbers, but also to form letters.

Lovelace thus enabled the simultaneous performance of several tasks on the computer. She was the one who came up with the strategy so that the machine could calculate the Bernoulli numbers. In 1979, the US Department of Defense developed a programming language called “Ada”.

Babbage and Lovelace never managed to complete the Analytical Engine. They died before that. But in 1953, Lovelace’s notes were republished in a book on digital computing, which showed how computers work by following patterns.

Why September 13th is the Day of Developers

The date was established as a national holiday in Russia in 2009, and was chosen because it is the 256th day of the year (in leap years it falls on September 12). Since 256 is the number of different values ​​that can be represented by an eight-bit byte (the smallest unit of information), it is a well-known number among programmers.

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