Ada Byron Lovelace was a British mathematician who is also known as the first computer programmer. Her father, Lord Byron, was a famous poet, and her mother had a great interest in mathematics. Her most famous contribution to the world was her translation and explanation of Charles Babbage's analytical engine. The explanation was so descriptive that it earned her the title of being the first computer programmer. Here is the Three Village Times interview with this remarkable woman.
Q: Mrs. Lovelace, did you always have an interest in mathematics?
A: Well I guess it was always in my blood, but I was also greatly influenced by my mother's interest in the subject. According to my mother, I had a great fascination with mechanics, and figuring out how things worked.
Q: Did you have any other hobbies as a child?
A: My life wasn't based solely on math. As any child would, I had many other hobbies. I had interests in gymnastics, dancing and horseback riding. I also liked music and played the piano, harp and violin.
Q: Who was your inspiration in becoming a great mathematician?
A: My mother had a great deal to do with what I am today. It was her who dreamed that I would become a mathematician. To fulfill this dream she did many things including having me tutored by Augustus DeMorgan. Along with my mother, I was also motivated by another female mathematician, Mary Sullivan who wrote a book called the Mechanisms of the Heavens which is about mathematical astronomy. We became good friends later on and she is also responsible for introducing me to my husband, Lord William King who became the first Earl of Lovelace.
Q: When did you meet Charles Babbage and hear about his analytical engine?
A: I first heard of the idea of Babbage's analytical engine at a lecture when I was 18 years old. Then starting in January of 1836 he and I wrote letters back and forth discussing his analytical engine.
Q: What potential did you see for the analytical engine?
A: I immediately saw the great things that could be done with the analytical engine. I even started to call it the thinking machine. Besides its mathematical point of view, I thought that these types of machines might also be able to compose music.
Q: What exactly does the analytical engine do?
A: The analytical engine is a machine that performs different mathematical operations when programmed. It was basically like a modern day computer. It had the capacity to store things, it had a computing device that could multiply, divide, add and subtract, and then there was the input and output devices.
Q: Why did you sign your explanation of the analytical engine A.A.L.? After all it was high point of your mathematical career.
A: Yes, it was, however during these times it was considered inappropriate for a woman to publish this type of work. Signing it, A.A.L. still gives me the credit without the social misfortune.
Q: Why was Babbage never able to finish building the engine?
A: There were many reasons for this. First
and foremost there was a deficiency of funds. Second technology
was not advanced enough for Babbage to make the engine more
Ada Byron Lovelace was plagued with illness in the late years of her life. She died of cancer when she was 36 years old and is buried next to her father in the Byron family vault. In her honor, a military computer language, ADA was named after her.