Science’s Most Elusive Women: Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace

Where in New York City can you review the astonishing archives of a leading pioneer in computer language? On a velvet pillow, overlooked by a bust of a Romantic-era icon, locked in the peaceful and mysterious Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle at the 42nd Street branch of the New York Public Library. The daughter of the poet Lord Byron, Ada’s collaboration with Charles Babbage on his calculating machine, the Analytical Engine, led to her popular reputation as the world’s first computer programmer. Modern historians have questioned whether her published notes of 1843 truly constitute the first computer language, but her writings remain unchallenged as the most exquisite poetry ever created about the intricacies of computer programming. In the early 1980’s a programming language created for the US Department of Defense was named “Ada” to honor her.