History of Ada Lovelace for Kids

When was Ada Lovelace born?

Augusta Ada Byron was born December 10, 1815, in London, England. Her father was Lord Byron, a world-famous poet — and her mother was Lady Anne Isabella Byron. Only a few weeks after Ada was born her parents separated and her father left England. When Ada was 8 he passed away, so Ada never met her famous father. 

Early Childhood

Many times during her childhood, Ada was sick. When she was eight she had lots of headaches, then when she was 14 she had measles and had to stay in bed for nearly a year! Eventually, she was able to walk with crutches, but during this time she continued to study and learn about her favorite subjects such as math.

Unlike most girls at her time, Ada was taught math and science by her tutors. A tutor is someone who teaches children individually, which means she didn’t go to a normal school like kids in our day. Ada’s mother insisted she learned math and science and made sure she worked very hard to be educated. Sometimes her mother made her lie still for long periods of time because she thought it would teach her to have self-control. Self-control is being able to control your emotions and behavior. But from a young age, Ada showed talent with numbers, meaning she was very good at math. 

When Ada was 12, she decided she wanted to figure out how to fly. Very carefully, she planned out how she would do this and first designed her own wings. She tried different materials of different sizes, she studied birds to figure out how they flew. She even wrote a book called Flyology with drawings and descriptions about how someone would fly. Her final idea was to use steam power to fly. She never attempted to fly herself, but her investigations were a good example of how curious she was and the passion she had for a single project.  

Famous Acquaintances

When Ada was young she met many different famous scientists, inventors, and authors due to her social position. She often went to court and became popular even at a young age due to her smarts. At parties, some of the famous people she met were Michael Faraday, Charles Dickens, and Charles Babbage, a well-known inventor. Charles Babbage became Ada’s mentor, which means someone who taught her personally. She began to learn advanced math at this time and was very interested in Babbage’s ideas. Babbage was one of the first people to have the idea for a computer. He imagined a machine that could do the math on its own and he eventually created this machine, which he called The Difference Engine (Learn more about the history of computer science). Ada was fascinated by this new machine — which became one of the earliest versions of a computer. Babbage went on to create another machine called The Analytical Engine.

Ada Publishes Her Ideas

Ada also knew many languages, so she was asked to translate an article about Babbage’s Analytical Engine. But while making the translation she added many of her own ideas. The notes and ideas she added ended up being three times longer than the article! Her article was later published in an English Science Journal. In the article, Ada shared her ideas about how codes could be used to handle letters and numbers. She also had the idea of how these codes could be used to loop computer programs. Because of all of her original ideas, many consider Ada to be the first computer programmer! 

William King

In 1835, Adam married a wealthy Baron named William King, who later became the Earl of Lovelace, so Ada became the Countess of Lovelace. They had three homes and lived in luxury, both sharing a love of horses. Together they also had three children. In 1837 Ada became very sick and due to some of the medications she was given suffered from other problems. At the age of 36, Ada passed away from cancer.

Ada’s Contributions

While she was alive not many people read Ada’s article about computer programming. It wasn’t until the 1950s that her article was found and people realized how brilliant her ideas about computer programming were. Her ideas were shared in new books about computer programming. In 1980 the United States military named their new programming language after her, calling it “Ada.” Also, the Association for Women in Computing has an Ada Lovelace Award each year and since 1988 the British Computer Society awards a Lovelace Medal, named after Ada.  

Like Ada, you can be curious about the world around you and take the time to study subjects such as math and science. Ada not only learned about these subjects, but she took what she learned and started her own projects, like investigating how to fly and writing her own book. Ada showed that it was important to meet lots of different people and learn from their ideas. This is another great way you can learn, too, by meeting new people and asking lots of questions! Have you ever wanted to create your own app or website? You can do this by learning computer programming. If you’re interested in learning more about coding check out code.org or Scratch, which is a website kids can use to learn how to code.

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