A Google Doodle today celebrates mathematician Ada Lovelace, widely known as the world’s first computer programmer, who was born on this date 197 years ago. Her work on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine is the first example of an algorithm meant to be processed by machine.
The Google logo today depicts Lovelace seated at a small wooden desk and chair, writing her notes on the Analytical Engine. Images hovering over top of the Google logo feature variations of modern computers, with the Google logo itself made of the curling paper on which she is writing.
Born December 10th, 1815 in London, Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace was the daughter of Lord Byron. She would never know her father, who left England shortly after her birth and died years later in Greece.
Hers was a decidedly tumultuous childhood, marked by an absent father, an uncaring mother and several bouts of illness. Still, she grew to become a dedicated mathematician who foresaw the possibilities in computing; her notes on the Analytical Engine showed its potential for not only completing calculations, but processes, as well.
The Analytical Engine was never completed, as Babbage didn't have the funding to actually finish any of his machines. Only a small part was constructed shortly before his death in 1871. Still, Lovelace’s work on his concept foreshadowed the capabilities of modern computers that came into production in the 1940s.
Her mathematical influence undoubtedly came from her mother, who was so afraid Ada might take after her poet father that she imposed on her a strict regimen of science, logic and math studies. Her mentor, scientist Mary Somerville, introduced Lovelace to Babbage in 1833. Following her work on his Analytical Engine, Babbage famously described Lovelace as “that Enchantress who has thrown her magical spell around the most abstract of Sciences and has grasped it with a force which few masculine intellects could have exerted over it.”
Each year, Ada Lovelace Day commemorates the work of the world’s first programmer and inspires women in technology. This year, Ada Lovelace Day took place October 16 and saw over 12,000 mentions of the event on Twitter. The occasion began in 2009, when organizers placed a simple pledge on British civil action site, Pledgebank. That first year, nearly 2,000 people signed up to their blog to celebrate women in technology whom they admired.