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Ada Lovelace

Ottobre 2018
Per un secolo il suo lavoro come matematica non ha ricevuto il riconoscimento che meritava. Oggi l’ingegno di questa brillante dama dell’alta società è considerato decisivo per lo sviluppo dell’informatica.

di Lourdes Gràcia

File audio:

Ada Lovelace
Ada Lovelace
computer machine
computer machine

Speaker: Sarah Davison (British accent)

Ada Lovelace Day, on the 9th of this month, was created to celebrate the life and work of the very first computer programmer. Ada Lovelace was a brilliant mathematician who wrote the world’s first machine algorithm for an early computing machine that was never built.


Born in 1815, Ada was the only legitimate child of the famous poet Lord George Gordon Byron and Lady Annabella Milbanke Byron. Their marriage lasted little more than a year, and Ada never met her father. Lord Byron left England and died in Greece when Ada was eight years old. Her mother promoted the young girl’s talent in mathematics as a way to protect her from the insanity of her father and his poetry.


In 1833, Ada met Charles Babbage, a mathematician who had designed a calculating machine that he called the Difference Engine. Babbage and Lovelace became friends and he served as her mentor. Encouraged by Babbage, Lovelace began studying advanced mathematics at the University of London.


Meanwhile, Babbage had designed a much more advanced calculating machine called the Analytical Engine. Lovelace realised that the Analytical Engine could do an extensive sequence of mathematical operations. For instance, she managed to calculate and comprehensively explain Bernoulli numbers (a sequence of rational numbers that are common in number theory.) Computer historians now recognise this work as being the first computer program. Lovelace also speculated that the Analytical Engine could be used to perform operations on other things apart from numbers, such as musical notes. In her later years, she even tried to develop mathematical schemes for winning at gambling! Unfortunately, she failed, putting her into financial danger. 


Lovelace’s work attracted little attention when she was alive. But a century after her death in 1852, it was endorsed by the writer B. V. Bowden, who published it in a 1953 history of computing called Faster than Thought. Since then, Lovelace has received numerous posthumous honours, helping to inspire many women, as well as men, to pursue careers in computing and mathematics. Even the U.S. Department of Defense has paid homage to her work, naming their computer language “Ada” after her.  

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The “insanity” of her father and his poetry. La “follia” di suo padre e della sua poesia. Lord Byron fu uno dei principali esponenti del Romanticismo inglese, famoso per aver avuto una vita particolarmente avventurosa, piena di eccessi, passioni e scandali. In questa frase si fa riferimento all'instabilità del poeta, come si evince dalle sue opere.