Ada’s first important contribution was a translation of a text and subsequently an addendum, which was published at Babbage’s advice. The text was originally a collection of notes taken by an Italian attendee of one of Babbage’s many lectures in Europe regarding his mathematical device. Ada later wrote innovative maneuvering techniques such as “subroutines, loops, and jumps,” which are integral parts of computer language even to this day. (Rheingold, 2000).
Ada’s most important contribution was the invention of the loop. The loop provides an instruction for the analytical engine “that backs up the card-reading device to a specified previous card, so that the sequence of instrument can be executed a number of times” (Rheingold, 2000). This invention was so important that it is a basic function in every programming language today.
However, she didn’t stop there. Ada developed another instruction for the analytical engine. This time, the instruction would enable the card-reader to skip ahead to a different card in any portion of a sequence, “if a specific condition was satisfied,” rather than simply backing up and performing a rerun of a sequence of cards (Rheingold, 2000). Because of this intricate procedure, the analytical engine could theoretically make intelligent decisions rather than simply calculate.
Ada belonged to the English aristocracy during the 19th century, which gave her access to a good education, as well as an opportunity to interact with renowned scientists like Babbage. In this regard, her gender did not completely hold her back from pursuing her passion for mathematics. Nonetheless, she was not afraid of defying gender norms of her time. As it is evident from her relationship with her mother, Ada was forced into a laudanum addiction in hopes that she would conform to Victorian era expectations for women. Despite such pressures, she continued to excel in a profession that is dominated by men even in the 21st century.