Minister’s Blog

2 March 2019

Ada Lovelace was Lord Byron’s daughter. He left her mother when she was only a month old. They never saw each other again. She was brought up by her mother and educated at home.  As a woman, she wasn’t allowed to go to University. But she excelled at mathematics.

In due course, she  worked with Charles Babbage on his Analytical Machine, the forerunner of the computer.  She was asked to translate a maths book from French into English. This was her chance. She added twice as many pages of mathematical notes.

Hidden in this appendix to her translation was the first computer programme! This was all done in 1843 when the kirk split in two! Although that was a momentous event, it seems to me that this development in modern technology has had a much deeper and longer lasting influence!

Ada Lovelace was very accomplished. She played the piano, harp and guitar. She skated and did some horse-riding. She brought up three children. Sadly, she died of cancer when she was only thirty-six years old.  

She had this photograph made just before she died. Although she was in great pain because of her cancer, she wanted her friends to have a copy of  her likeness. One of them was Mary Somerville, the scientist on our ten pound note!

Ada sent her a cap which she had embroidered. Mary was delighted and wrote back, ‘It shows that we mathematicians can do other things besides studying xs and ys.’ They could collaborate, make connections, get back to first principles, celebrate life in all its fullness!