December 10, 2010

Happy Birthday, Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace

The daughter of a very famous English poet, Lord Byron, Ada was much more influenced by her mother, Anne Isabelle Milbanke. This is because her father separated from her mother when Ada was just one month old and then went abroad when she was just four months old. She never saw him again, and he died when she was nine years old.

(“Went abroad” means that he went to another country. This term is used when someone goes by boat or plane over an ocean or sea—and since England is located on the British Isles, just about every foreign country is reached by going overseas! Americans might say they went abroad when they flew to Europe but would use a different term when they drove over the border to Mexico.)

Augusta Ada Byron was born on this day way back in 1815, and she got married to the first Earl of Lovelace in 1834—and she has been called the first computer programmer.

Even though there were no computers back when she lived!

How can this be, you ask? 

Well, with the encouragement of her mother, Ada Lovelace studied mathematics. Interested in Charles Babbage's work, Lovelace translated his papers and wrote about his Difference Engine (pictured above) and Analytical Engine (pictured below, left).

Over one hundred years after her death, Lovelace's notes on Babbage's Analytical Engine were republished. The engine became recognized as an early model for a computer, and in Lovelace's notes a description of software, including an algorithm to compute Bernoulli numbers. Since this is considered the first algorithm specifically tailored for use on a computer, Lady Lovelace is considered by many to be the first computer programmer!

The programming language Ada is named after her.

Here are some computer programming resources for kids:

...Logo, the first language I know of that was created for kids. 

...Phrogram, a kids' programming language. 

...Scratch, a place to create and share creative computer projects. 

...Alice, educational software that teaches computer programming. 

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