Ada Byron/Talk

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This seems to be getting close to a definitive work now. Thanks for all the contributions and the first two links.

I learned a lot researching this! --Buz Cory

As best I can figure out, Lady Ada was born Augusta Ada Byron, Ada being her middle name. Can anyone confirm this for certain?

There are fragments of her notes on the analytical engine in one of the links I added. These will be put in the /notes page as I get the chance. Does anyone have access to the full notes as published in either The Ladies Diary or Taylors Memoirs? -- Buz Cory

The full article she translated and annotated is online. Link is on the analytical engine page.

I think it is exaggerated to claim that "she anticipated much of what is now taught as computer science". She described a general purpose computer and produced several example programs, that's it. She deserves the title of first programmer. If you look at contemporary computer science, you see stacks, trees, queues, sorting algorithms, graph algorithms, object oriented paradigm, compiler construction, operating systems etc. None of this was anticipated by Ada. --AxelBoldt

Thanks. That comment about "much of computer science" was based on the opinion of another. Now that I have read (or at least skimmed) the "Notes" myself, I am inclined to agree with you. And BTW, most of the stuff you mention has been around for four or five decades. Little of it is new.
I now have the entire text on my own workstation and will be working to convert it to XHTML, replacing most or all of the images with textual equations and tables. Mebbe sometime next week will have something. Don't see at the moment how this can be easily added to Wikipedia.
--Buz Cory

Is there any reason to believe that Lady Lovelace's writings about the Analytical Engine contain any ideas that were not communicated to her by Charles Babbage, including the instructions for the Bernoulli calculation? -- Hank Ramsey

Yes; during the time when Ada was adding her own notes to the Menabrea article (at Babbage's suggestion), she corresponded regularly with Babbage, and those letters are preserved. It is quite clear from them that many significant ideas (for example, that such an engine might be used to compose music, or draw pictures) were hers, and that Babbage himself required a bit of convincing before accepting her vision. --LDC

Hopefully someone can add these details to the article? - HWR

Babbage speaks highly of Ada in his autobiography, a chapter of which is online at the Analytical Engine page

A brief investigation turned up the following statement by Allan G. Bromley from "Difference and Analytical Engines", in Computing Before Computers(1990), edited by William Aspray:

Ada Lovelace has sometimes been acclaimed as the "world's first programmer" on the strength of her authorship of the notes to the Menabrea paper. This romantically appealing image is without foundation. All but one of the programs cited in her notes had been prepared by Babbage from three to seven years earlier. the exception was prepared by Babbage for her, although she did detect a"bug" in it. Not only is there no evidence that Ada Lovelace ever prepared a program for the Analytical Engine but her correspondence with Babbage shows that she did not have the knowledge to do so.

That's a strong statement, but perhaps not the last word. Is there some more recent scholarship? - HWR

That's interesting and should definitely be included on the main page as "one opinion". Is here correspondence with Babbage publicly available? --AxelBoldt

Another comment, found in Computer: A history of the information machine (1996) by Martin Campbell-Kelly and William Aspray:

One should note, however, that the extent of Lovelace's intellectual contribution to the Sketch has been much exaggerated in recent years. She has been pronounced the world's first programmer and even had a programming language (ADA) named in her honor. Scholarship of the last decade has shown that most of the technical content and all of the programs in the Sketch were Babbage's work.

Babbage himself wrote the following, in his Passages from the Life of a Philosopher (1846), from an excerpt found in Perspectives on the Computer Revolution (1970), edited by Zenon Pylyshyn:

I then suggested that she add some notes to Menabrea's memoir, an idea which was immediately adopted. We discussed together the various illustrations that might be introduced: I suggested several but the selection was entirely her own. So also was the algerbraic working out of the different problems, except, indeed, that relating to the numbers of Bernoulli, which I had offered to do to save Lady Lovelace the trouble. This she sent back to me for an amendment, having detected a grave mistake which I had made in the process.

On the other hand, I have not yet seen Ada: The Enchantress of Numbers by Betty Alexandra Toole, Ed.D., of which the author writes [1]:

To enable readers to base their own conclusions on the evidence, I have structured Ada, The Enchantress of Numbers: Prophet of the Computer Age to fit the internet age: one-half biography, one-half email of the 19th century. Appendix II contains the latest information about the controversy over whether Ada should be acknowledged as the first programmer and prophet of the computer age.