Ada Lovelace was the only legitimate child of the legendary English poet Lord Byron, but he separated from his wife a month after Ada was born and left England, so they never knew each other. In 1833, at age 17, Lovelace met mathematician Charles Babbage, who had theorized a grand calculating machine that he called the Analytical Engine. Spurred on by her scientific education and smitten with the idea of a “computing machine,” Lovelace published the first algorithm for this hypothetical machine, earning her the title of the world’s first computer programmer.
A short but productive life:
- In extensive writings, Lovelace explained the engine more clearly than Babbage had, even theorizing a method for the engine to repeat a series of instructions, a process known today as looping.
- Only a small piece of the Analytical Engine was ever built, but Lovelace’s contributions live on. The modern programming language "Ada" is named after her.
- In later years, Lovelace tried to develop mathematical schemes for winning at gambling. She died from uterine cancer at age 36, and was buried next to her father in Nottingham, England.