Monday, October 11, 2010

Who am I?

She is the daughter of a poet even though she could not see him for the first time on a portrait photo before she was 20 years old. Her mother played her part in this as well as in her natural-scientific interest - she was one of the few women who had studied geometry and astronomy. This mathematically interested mother brought her up befitting her social status in a conventional way; however, she ensured that she got a natural-scientific education - her tutor was a former Cambridge professor and the usual private tuition included the subjects mathematics and astronomy which was highly unusual for girls.

She developed an interest for machines when she was 18 years old. She visited technical exhibitions and attended scientific lectures. In the early 1830s she met the reputed mathematician Mary Somerville. Mary Somerville encouraged her to study mathematics and technology and introduced her to the scientific circles in London. Here she heard about Charles Babbage's idea of a new calculating machine, the difference engine, for the first time in 1834.

She got married at 19. Her husband wrote for her; nevertheless her marriage was quite unhappy - as she said herself - since there was only little time left for her two passions mathematics and music besides her motherly duties. To complicate matters further, access to libraries was forbidden for women. In 1840 she started correspondence with Augustus De Morgan, the first professor for mathematics at the University of London, so that she could at least continue her studies in this way.

After she translated an Italian article about Babbage's second big calculator project, the analytical engine, in 1842 and sent the text to Babbage, the latter encouraged her to study the engine in more detail and to add her own explanations. The comments tripled the length of the original article. Together they further worked out the programming basics of the analytical engine. Ada's suggestion to calculate the Bernouil figures is today considered to be first computer program.

'The analytical engine', she said, 'weaves algorithmic patterns just like the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves.' Her mathematic brain was distinguished by her extraordinary imagination.

This cooperation found Babbage's interest but he declined any further cooperation.

Neither was it possible then to implement the theoretical findings into technology since at that time it was not possible to manufacture precision instruments such as today's EDP systems. However, her findings ensure that today's computer systems work: In 1979, more than 100 years after her death, a programming language was named after her.

Solution will be given in the next entry...

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