Again, it the Analytical Engine might act upon other things besides number, were objects found whose mutual fundamental relations could be expressed by those of the abstract science of operations, and which should be also susceptible of adaptations to the action of the operating notation and mechanism of the engine . . . Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.
Ada Byron King's breakthrough
was not technical, but visionary - which makes the question of her proficiency
in algebra moot anyway. Ahead even of Babbage
himself, she grasped the potential applications of the Analytical Engine, and its fundamental difference from, say, Pascal
's calculating machine (which we would equate to a modern calculator
rather than a computer). In the above quote, what she foretells is essentially digitalisation of data
, a process which we are currently living through the complete triumph of - even human voices are no longer recorded in analogue
She also recognised the potential relationship between the machine and the person who uses it (or rather operates it - Ada's vision did not extend quite to as far as the uninformed end-user), the responsibilities and difficulties of communicating to a machine in a clear and concise manner the sequence of operations required from it. It is the plan she drew up to facilitate this interaction that earned her her fame as the first programmer.
Augusta Ada Byron was the product of a disastrous marriage and never met her father, although, at her request, she is buried next to him in Nottinghamshire. Her visionary and imiginative mind was surely inherited from her father, although her scientifically inclined mother did all she could to suppress any poetic tendencies, which she considered dangerous and disruptive. As well as an avid amateur mathematician, Ada was also an accomplished musician and an excellent horsewoman. Far from any modern preconceptions of nerdy studiousness, she was a remarkably handsome and vivacious woman who moved with her husband in the best London society.
Ada was originally introduced to Babbage by a mutual mathematician friend, Mrs. Somerville, who was a recognised scientist and whose texts were being read at Cambridge. The introduction produced a lifelong friendship which in turn spawned a barrage of correspondence on mathematics, and later on, all subjects of life. She was also close to Dickens, who was the last person outside her family circle to visit her before she died, and many other luminaries of the period.
Her supposed addiction to gambling should be viewed in historical context - gambling was as widespread an activity as going to the movies in the Regency era, and many a rich and powerful person ended their life in exile to avoid the debtor's prison. It is true that she gambled, but no evidence exists of her doing it to any material excess beyond what was cosidered normal in her social circle.
Ada Lovelace was a remarkable person, and her being a woman has very little to do with it. While it is true that she is one of a very small number of women scientists whose names are instantly recognisable to people today, it is important to remember that this list is constantly growing thanks to research and re-emancipation of women's contribution ot the arts and sciences. It is rather when one considers that she made a deep impression on Babbage and Mrs. Somerville at the tender age of 17, and that her youthful fascination with mathematics lasted all her life, that one is able to appreciate her as one who possessed that rare dedication and enthusiasm which is the largest part of genius.
Quote from http://www.cs.yale.edu/homes/tap/Files/ada-lovelace-notes.html