LORD BYRON AND THE FIRST FEMALE PROGRAMMER THE COUNTESS OF LOVELACE – Dr Dawn Gould

The world has become very involved in technology.  South Africans of all ages have taken to this new culture with a great deal of attention.  Everywhere one sees people sitting, walking or standing still, busily tapping away at the letters of a cell phone or listening and speaking into it.  One  finds them gazing with great attention at the blank face of an IPad waiting for some amazing information to slowly appear on the screen. 

 The other attention catcher is the internet.  True it has the ability to bring information to the attention of so many millions of human beings, the ability to further one’s learning studiously or superficially and to help individuals acquire necessary advice .  The internet can  bring people together over thousands of miles to discuss subjects and in relevant  languages that interest them. 

Newspapers and magazines give much reading attention to the past and present men and women who are the geniuses who have created these wonderful technological machines. While reading of the earlier scientists a surname of an individual was noted –  Lord George Gordon Byron – more known for English poetry than the subject of this article.  But the details of the name Byron was in reference to his daughter, Augusta Ada Byron born 10 December 1815. Usually, in later years it seems, she was known as Ada rather than Augusta.

The marriage of her parents was not a happy one, her father left England and she never saw him again.  Her schooling was unusual for the period – tutors taught her mathematics and science at her mother’s insistence.  At the age of 17 Ada Byron met mathematician and inventor, Charles Babbage who mentored her. He would become known as the “father of the computer.”   With his help she was able to study advance mathematics at the University of London.   She would become involved with the early working of the computer.  Her continued work on the subject, so much so, that in her later years she would be considered as, “ the first computer programmer.”

In 1835 she married William King who shortly thereafter became the Earl of Lovelace making her,  Countess of Lovelace.  Sadly Ada died of uterus cancer on 27 November 1852. Strangely  her  work in the field of computer science was only discovered in the 1950’s. However in 1980 the US Department of Defence “named a newly developed computer language “Ada” after this very interesting lady.