I will drink a toast to the good Lady Ada when I celebrate my raise and
promotion this weekend with my family.
charter member Team-Ada
Software Systems Engineer
AdaSoft at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.
email: [log in to unmask]
phone: (240) 228-3030 (live M-F 9:30am-4:30pm, voicemail anytime)
fax: (240) 228-6779
> -----Original Message-----
> From: John McCormick [SMTP:[log in to unmask]]
> Sent: Friday, December 10, 1999 8:47 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Happy Birthday Ada!
> On December 10, 1815, Anna Isabella (Annabella) Byron, whose husband was
> Lord Byron, gave birth to a daughter, Augusta Ada. Ada's father was a
> romantic poet whose fame derived not only from his works but also from his
> wild and scandalous behavior. His marriage to Annabella was strained from
> the beginning, and Annabella left Byron just a little more than a month
> after Ada was born. By April of that year, Annabella and Byron signed
> separation papers, and Byron left England, never to return.
> Byron's writings show that he greatly regretted that he was unable to see
> his daughter. In one poem, for example, he wrote of Ada,
> I see thee not. I hear thee not.
> But none can be so rapt in thee.
> Byron died in Greece at the age of 36, and one of the last things he said
> Oh my poor dear child! My dear Ada! My God, could I but have seen
> Meanwhile, Annabella, who was eventually to become a baroness in her own
> right, and who was herself educated as both a mathematician and a poet,
> carried on with Ada's upbringing and education. Annabella gave Ada her
> first instruction in mathematics, but it soon became clear that Ada's gift
> for the subject was such that it required more extensive tutoring. Ada
> received further training in mathematics from Augustus DeMorgan, who is
> today famous for one of the basic theorems of Boolean algebra, which forms
> the basis for modern computers. By the age of eight, Ada also had
> demonstrated an interest in mechanical devices and was building detailed
> model boats.
> When she was 18, Ada visited the Mechanics Institute to hear Dr. Dionysius
> Lardner's lectures on the "difference engine," a mechanical calculating
> machine being built by Charles Babbage. She became so interested in the
> device that she arranged to be introduced to Babbage. It was said that,
> upon seeing Babbage's machine, Ada was the only person in the room to
> understand immediately how it worked and to appreciate its significance.
> Ada and Babbage became good friends and she worked with him for the rest
> of her life, helping to document his designs, translating writings about
> his work, and developing programs to be used on his machines.
> Unfortunately, Babbage never completed construction of any of his designs.
> Even so, today Ada is recognized as being the first computer programmer in
> history. That title, however, does not do full justice to her genius.
> Around the time that Babbage met Ada, he began the design for an even more
> ambitious machine called the "analytical engine," which we now recognize
> was the first programmable computer. Ada instantly grasped the
> implications of the device and foresaw its application in ways that even
> Babbage did not imagine. Ada believed that mathematics eventually would
> develop into a system of symbols that could be used to represent anything
> in the universe. From her notes, it is clear that Ada saw that the
> analytical engine could go beyond arithmetic computations and become a
> general manipulator of symbols, and thus it would be capable of almost
> anything. She even suggested that such a device could eventually be
> programmed with rules of harmony and composition so that it could produce
> "scientific" music. In effect, Ada foresaw the field of artificial
> intelligence over 150 years ago.
> In 1842, Babbage went to Turin, Italy, and gave a series of lectures on
> his analytical engine. One of the attendees was Luigi Menabrea, who was
> so impressed that he wrote an account of Babbage's lectures. At age 27,
> Ada decided to translate the account into English, with the intent to add
> a few
> of her own notes about the machine. In the end, her notes were twice as
> long as the original material, and the document, "The Sketch of the
> Analytical Engine," became the definitive work on the subject.
> It is obvious from Ada's letters that her "notes" were entirely her own
> and that Babbage was acting as a sometimes unappreciated editor. At one
> point, Ada wrote to him,
> I am much annoyed at your having altered my Note. You know I am
> willing to make any required alterations myself, but that I cannot
> another person to meddle with my sentences.
> Ada gained the title Countess of Lovelace when she married Lord William
> Lovelace. The couple had three children, but Ada was so consumed by her
> love of mathematics that she left their upbringing to her mother. For a
> woman of that day, such behavior was considered almost as scandalous as
> some of her father's exploits, but her husband was actually quite
> supportive of her work.
> In 1852, Ada died from cancer. Sadly, if she had lived just one year
> longer, she would have witnessed the unveiling of a working difference
> engine built from one of Babbage's designs by George and Edward Scheutz in
> Sweden. Like her father, Ada lived only until she was 36, and, even
> though they led much different lives, she undoubtedly admired Byron and
> took inspiration from his unconventional and rebellious nature. At the
> end, Ada asked to be buried beside him at the family's estate.
> From Chapter 2 of Programming and Problem Solving with Ada 95 by
> Nell Dale, Chip Weems, and John McCormick, Jones and Bartlett, 2000
> John W. McCormick [log in to unmask]
> Computer Science Department [log in to unmask]
> University of Northern Iowa voice (319) 273-2618
> Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0507 fax (319) 273-7123