If you have never read the glorious webcomic Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton, then by all means start now. Her comics are always informative, hilarious, and more often than not, downright silly. This week she has created a comic about one of my new-found heroes, Ada Lovelace, who I heard about last year through one of Beaton’s older comics. The older one also features the famous Charles Babbage:

Source: http://harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=141

Anyway, after reading Beaton’s first comic on Ada, I did a little Wikipedia search, immediately became obsessed with Mrs. Lovelace, and wrote an enthusiastic blog entry. I decided to do a little copy-paste action from my old blog to share the Ada-love.

Ada Lovelace Portrait

It turns out that Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) was Lord Byron’s only legitimate daughter, and was a mathematical genius. Her mother wanted to weed out the supposed insanity in the family (which she perceived in Lord Byron; why ever would she think that??), so she had Lovelace schooled pretty much exclusively in math and science. Lovelace married well and became the “The Right Honourable Countess of Lovelace,” and was known for her incredible mathematical intellect. She was fascinated with Charles Babbage’s “Analytical Engine” (an early computer design), and in a set of extensive notes she wrote on the machine, she included “what is recognized as the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine” (“a method for calculating a sequence of Bernoulli numbers with the Engine, which would have run correctly had the Analytical Engine ever been built.”) Because of these notes, she is widely considered the world’s first computer programmer, and the method in the notes is considered the first computer program. How awesome is that!?

I am especially impressed by the success of a woman fathered by the infamously rakish, notoriously flighty, and essentially unfit-for-fatherhood, Lord Byron. She could have been a mess, but turned out a genius with a relatively balanced and successful life. Here’s to you Ada Lovelace!
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ada_Lovelace

In sum, Ada Lovelace was a total badass bluestocking and certainly overcame the ol’ Byronic “madness” (which, if you check out Byron’s Wikipedia page, you will learn is quite a feat). And now with the context above, I hope you enjoy Kate Beaton’s most recent Ada Lovelace comic, the inspiration for the entire digression above:




Pip pip cheerio!

2 thoughts on “Great Women of History: Ada Lovelace”

  1. I actually was just reading about her in y History of Psychology book because of her contributions to a machine that was meant to (somewhat) replicate human thinking (i.e. the analytical engine).

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