Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace’s contributions to the inception of computer programming include her ingenious ideas about logic and math, which she implemented as a programming language in Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine. Her interest in the underlying principles of programming behind the engine’s computations lead her to devise special instructions that could enable the engine to not only perform calculations, but to also make primitive decisions (Howard, 2000). These instructions included the first incarnation of a loop, which now serves as the basis of many modern programming languages. Furthermore, by manipulating punch cards used in the Jacquard Loom, she invented a way to store  instructions so that they can be reused multiple times enabling the retrieval and combination of simpler procedures to compute complex calculations. Her use of punch cards also led to the development of conditional jumps, which allowed computational machines to make primitive decisions by following simple If statements. Lastly, she was the first to publish essays and notes on the Analytical Engine in English, enticing other logicians and mathematicians to further explore Babbage’s and her ideas thus establishing a solid foundation for the art of programming.
Ada’s contributions to the field of computer science would have not been possible if it wasn’t for her own ambition and thirst for knowledge as well as the blessing of being born into a wealthy and well-connected family. Despite being a woman, Ada demonstrated great interest and talent in mathematics. This interest was advanced by the best tutors and latest books that England’s pioneering minds had to offer. From a young age, Ada had the privilege of being tutored by De Morgan-the most brilliant logician of the time who also happened to be a family friend and took special interest in her intellectual capabilities (Howard, 2000). In addition, her love for mathematics and intuition about engineering was what initially lead her to appreciate the potential of Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine. Her immediate connection with the machine instilled in her a deep passion for it, which she pursued almost instantly. As a very young and motivated woman, she began her work on programming with none other than Charles Babbage who played an integral role in manifesting and encouraging her ideas despite her gender.

Reference:

Rheingold, Howard (2000) The First Programmer Was a Lady. In Tools for Thought (pp. 25-44)

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