Ada Lovelace: The first programmer in history

Augusta Ada King (1815-1852), commonly known as Ada Lovelace, was a British mathematician. She’s considered the first programmer, since she wrote the manipulation of symbols, according to the norms of a Charles Babbage machine that hadn’t been built yet. She deduced and foresaw the ability of computers to go beyond simple numerical calculations, while others, including Babbage himself, focused solely on these capabilities.

Ada met Mary Somerville, a well-known author and scientist of the nineteenth century who introduced her to Charles Babbage (Lucasian professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge and father of computers) on June 5, 1833, when she was only seventeen. He immediately began a voluminous correspondence between the two on topics related to mathematics, logic, and ultimately, all subjects. Charles Baggage was so impressed with the analytical ability of the young Ada that he nicknamed her “The Enchantress of numbers”.

The analytical machine

In 1834, Babbage had plans for the construction of a new type of calculating machine, a general analytical machine. The analytical machine is the design of a modern general-purpose computer that represented an important step forward in the history of computing.

In 1842 the Italian mathematician Louis Menebrea published a memory in French on the Analytical Engine. Babbage enlisted Ada as a memory translator in French to adapt it to English, a work she did for nine months between 1842 and 1843. Ada not only translated the article but added a set of notes larger than the memory itself. Those notes are the source of her fame as the first programmer in history.

Ada was the first person in the world to describe a general programming language by interpreting Babbage’s ideas even better than himself. In 1843 she published a series of notes on her analytical machine that she signed only with her initials for fear of being censored because of her condition as a woman. She described concepts such as the loop and the subroutine. She used to define herself as an analyst and metaphysician, something far more advanced for her time than the thought of her primitive congeners.

Ada wrote a complete plan describing the algorithm needed to calculate the Bernoulli numbers using two loops, demonstrating the bifurcation capabilities of the analytical machine, describing how to perform trigonometric operations that made use of variables and also defined the use of punch cards to program the Babbage machine. This invention, which was never built, was the antecedent of the modern computer.

Lady Ada Lovelace was another of the great geniuses who for one reason or another have died prematurely depriving the world of their abilities and wisdom. Ada has been remembered throughout history and an attempt has been made to reward her legacy in some way.

In 1979, the Department of Defense of the United States recognized the contributions of this English girl and created a programming language in her honor called Ada. In 2010 Bruce Beresford directed the film entitled “Enchantress of Numbers” which deals with the life of Lady Ada Lovelace.

His father was the well-known poet Lord Byron.

Ada Lovelace along with other women pioneers in the world of science and technology have transformed the course of history as we know it.

This entry was originally posted at ‘Blog Retos Femeninos’


Sylvia is a multi-award-winning communicator, publicist, lecturer and spokesperson for women’s rights in different national and international forums. As an entrepreneur, she is the founder of the strategy of comprehensive communication for Women’s Challenges, focused on the personal and professional growth of thousands of women, and the initiative Enough of violence against women, among others. From 2007 to date, it presents the “International Women’s Day” event at the CDMX, Monterrey, and Guadalajara and from 2018, every year, in a different city, to cover the Mexican Republic. She is an ambassador for Vital Voices for her work promoting women’s rights.

Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @retosfemeninos