Ada Lovelace 
December 10th 1815 - November 27th 1852

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, was the only legitimate child of the poet Lord Byron. However, she never knew the father who left his wife and child when Ada was still a baby, and who died when she was nine.


As a child Ada was sickly following a bout of measles. Meanwhile, her domineering mother kept Ada in isolation while attempting to allay any trace of ‘immorality’ or 'poetic tendencies' she might have inherited from her father. Instead, she insisted  Ada was tutored in music and mathematics (Lady Byron was herself a clever mathematician who Byron had once called his 'Princess of Parallelograms') and was no doubt relieved when Ada showed great promise in these areas.

Charles Babbage 1791-1871

Ada’s talents came to fruition at the age of seventeen when she met with Charles Babbage, Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge University. In such a role, Babbage had already begun his work on mechanical computers, though his machines were never made, with parliament refusing to sponsor the plans he submitted for the ‘Difference’ and ‘Analytical’ Engines. 

Ada Lovelace

Babbage found more interest abroad, and was aided by the Italian mathematician, Louis Menebrea. When he then returned to England again, Ada ~ his little Enchantress of Numbers ~ who had since gone on to marry, continued to help him with translating Menabrea’s notes. From these she formed an algorithm: a code to enable the processing of the machines her mentor had in mind. For this work she is now viewed as being the first computer programmer. There is also some evidence that Ada designed or suggested punch cards for use with the machine, even exploring its scope for aiding the composition of music.

Ockham Park, near East Horsley in Surrey

After her marriage to William King-Noel, who became the Earl of Lovelace, Ada was able to part from her domineering mother and resided at Ockham Park in Surrey. There she produced three children before a premature death from uterine cancer at the age of  36 ~ the same age as her father had been when he died in Greece, suffering from a fever and an excess of medicinal blood-letting. 

Image taken from Barber's Byron and Where He is Buried

As befitting her final wish, Ada was then buried at Lord Byron's side in the crypt of Hucknall Torkard church, at last to be reunited with the man never known in life.

If you like the idea of ‘steampunk’ Victorian fiction why not try reading The Difference Machine, an alternate historical novel featuring Ada Lovelace by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. In their story the Analytical Engine has actually been built, changing the balance of world power. Babbage gains great political influence, while the Prime Minister is the scandalous Lord Byron (still alive and in England, rather than dying in Greece). Byron heads the Industrial Radical Party, in which Ada is a prominent figure. Meanwhile, her computer ‘punch cards’ have been developed to enable a gambling ‘modus’.
The VV would like to end this post by sharing something seen on the Datamancer website ~ a wonderful hybrid laptop encased in a Victorian music box, and perhaps something that Ada Lovelace would have loved to own herself.


  1. Absouletly fascinating as usual. Women translating mathematical codes. Why were we not taught about these wonderful women in school?

  2. I haven't read The Difference Engine, but it's interesting that Gibson et al appear to have made Byron a more sympathetic figure by imagining that he had close dealings with his daughter in that alternate reality. He doesn't really deserve their imaginative rehabilitation, in my view.

  3. Hello Bellanta - In the Difference Engine, Byron isn't actually a likeable figure, and his relationship with his wife and daughter is one based more on abuse then affection.

  4. My book Prose 1997 - 2008 includes an essay on Ada Lovelace and how she combined both poetry and science in her life.

  5. What an excellent post! Found it very interesting - I had some vague knowledge about Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage but connection to Byron was a revelation!

  6. Fabulous post, as always! And I love the steampunk laptop (this is JUST what I want to write on).

  7. Thank you, Jan and Lidian - and yes, that laptop is amazing!

  8. WE just missed Ada Lovelace Day on Oct 7th. "Ada Lovelace Day aims to raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and maths by encouraging people around the world to talk about the women whose work they admire"


    Also, it looks like Datamancer is selling some of his laptops

    Though surely the wily Victorians would have incorporated a set of telescopic legs, maybe a fold down shooting stick to match?

  9. Please note that the photo labelled as 'Ockham Park in Surrey' is actually Horsley Park in Surrey, now a Devere Venue.