Feeds

Poet's daughter was first programmer… NOT

Biography of Lord Byron's daughter makes interesting claims

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

A new biography of Ada (an abbreviation of Augusta), Countess of Lovelace, by Benjamin Woolley will perpetuate the myth that she was the world's first programmer. There are several problems with this, principally that Charles Babbage himself fulfilled that role, and that he was most notably assisted by his son Herschel, and possibly his two younger sons as well. Ada Lovelace's role was essentially to review some of Babbage's earlier work. Ada was the daughter of Byron, but did not know him as her mother was separated from him five weeks after her birth. She is described as a mathematician, but her mathematical accomplishment was minimal. In 1843 she translated from French a paper by the Italian General Meabrea (later prime minister of Italy), who had heard Babbage lecture in Turin on plans for his analytical engine a couple of years earlier. When she showed the paper to Babbage, he suggested she added her own notes, which she did, copiously - but they are rambling screeds of limited value. It's a matter of definition as to whether Babbage's engine could be programmed in any modern sense of the term. It appears that Ada suggested to Babbage that the machine be used for calculating Bernoulli numbers. Ada characterised Pascal's machine as a calculator, and of little use, while Babbage's engine was the real thing - except that it never worked in his lifetime and was only completed a few years ago. It is in the Science Museum in South Kensington, although friends of ex-MS head of research Nathan Myhrvold will be able to see his in due course, since he bought one at the museum shop. Woolley shows that Ada was a considerable flirt, a gambler unable to win despite her application of mathematics to the subject, and somewhat addicted to opium. So awful was Ada's writing that Woolley has had to paraphrase it. She died when she was 36, at the same age as her father, and also from cancer. Her modern incarnation is the Ada language, named after her, and developed by the US Department of Defense in 1979. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Lords take revenge on REVENGE PORN publishers
Jilted Johns and Jennies with busy fingers face two years inside
Yes, yes, Steve Jobs. Look what I'VE done for you lately – Tim Cook
New iPhone biz baron points to Apple's (his) greatest successes
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.