Did you know that Ada Lovelace, the illegitimate daughter of poet Lord Byron, is credited as the world’s first computer programmer? Born in 1815, Ada was raised in a strict environment of mathematics and logic as a child, in order to prevent her from becoming anything like the “insane” father who had abandoned her. Sounds like a great soap opera plot, doesn’t it? (Days of Our Lives, if you’re reading this, get a hold of me).
Ada’s mathematical expertise began to emerge when she was only 17, under the tutoring of renowned mathematician and logician Augustus De Morgan. Throughout her life, Ada went on to preoccupy herself with mathematical endeavors that also reflected her interest in psychology—Ada enjoyed studying phrenology and mesmerism, and aspired to create a mathematical model for the way in which our brains develop thoughts and feelings (what she called “a calculus of the nervous system”). During the 1840s, Ada combined her love of mathematics with her second love—gambling—and attempted to create a mathematical model for successful large bets. This ended in complete disaster (tsk tsk, Ada). The year before her death, Ada wrote letters to her mother mentioning her work on “certain productions” that combined math and music.
How did she become known as the world’s first computer programmer? After befriending Charles Babbage, rightfully known as “the father of the computer” for being the first to conceive of a programmable computer, Ada spent almost a year translating Luigi Menabrea’s memoir on Babbage’s newly proposed machine: the Analytical Engine. While doing so, she included a set of her own notes to help explain the Analytical Engine’s function—a concept that most other scientists could not grasp. When finished, Ada’s notes on the Engine were longer than the memoir itself, and included what we now consider the world’s first computer program—a very detailed method for calculating a sequence of Bernoulli numbers with the Analytical Engine, which, had the machine actually been constructed, would have run correctly.
In one of her notes on the Analytical Engine, Ada wrote: “the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.” So, could we also credit Ada for the first documented notions of dubstep, circa the 1840s? There’s something to ponder…
Edit: Ada was actually the only legitimate daughter of Lord Byron, but was abandoned by him shortly after she was born.