Ada Lovelace Learning Leaflet: Women in ScienceLynx Open Ed
First Computer Programmer History of Science Collections
University of Oklahoma Libraries
Ada Lovelace, !Notes" to a !Sketch of the Analytical Engine Invented by Charles Babbage,
by L.F. Menabrea," in Scientific Memoirs (London, 1843), vol. 3.
Exhibit: Galileo’s World | Gallery: Galileo, Engineer | No. 16 lynx-open-ed.org
What is the difference between a calculating machine and a computer?
Ada Lovelace: First Computer Programmer
Charles Babbage designed two kinds of mechanical
computational machines: a !difference engine,# or calculating
machine; and an !analytical engine,# which was far more. In
1840, Babbage presented his design for the !analytical engine# to
a group of mathematical engineers in Turin, Italy. One of them,
Luigi Menabrea, who would later become Prime Minister of
Italy, published an account of Babbage$s design in Geneva. With
Babbage$s encouragement, the daughter of Lord Byron, Augusta
Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, translated Menabrea$s article
into English and added her own substantive commentary.
Lovelace$s notes went considerably beyond what Babbage and
Menabrea had written. Her lengthy appended notes amount to
40 pages of very dense text compared with only 24 pages,
lightly spaced, for Menabrea$s article. Lovelace explained how
Babbage$s !analytical engine,# if constructed, would amount to a
programmable computer rather than merely a calculator. It
would take input from punch cards, and store variables for use in
diverse sequential operations. These 19th century mechanical
operations are functionally equivalent to the conditional
branching, looping, and parallel processing operations of early
electronic computers. Although she specified how Babbage$s
engine could generate a Bernoulli series of numbers, Lovelace
argued for the wider potential of the engine to produce
analytical results beyond the realm of mathematics.
Kerry Magruder and Brent Purkaple
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