Was the First Computer Programmer a Woman?

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When I noticed today’s Google Doodle, commemorating Ada Lovelace’s birthday, I was delightfully surprised to learn about her.

Was the First Computer Programmer a Woman?

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852),  was the daughter of the English poet Lord Byron. (He separated from her mother, however, when she was just one month old.)  She was a mathematician and writer known mainly for her work with Charles Babbage on his early computer, the Analytical Engine, which is recognized as the world’s first computer.

According to Wikipedia:

Ada Lovelace

“Between 1842 and 1843, she translated an article by Italian mathematician Luigi Menabrea on the engine, which she supplemented with a set of notes of her own. These notes contain what is considered the first computer program – that is, an algorithm encoded for processing by a machine. Ada’s notes are important in the early history of computers. She also foresaw the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching while others, including Babbage himself, focused only on these capabilities.”


“Her notes on the engine include what is recognized as the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine. Because of this, she is often considered the world’s first computer programmer.”

Wow!  Would she be surprised at what we use computers for today? In our cars. Our phones. Our refrigerators even. It sounds like she could see many potential uses for a computer.

Some disagree that she made any significant contribution.  You can read about the controversy, but I’m going to give her my vote of confidence! I was a computer programmer for nine years, so I have a new heroine.


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