Untangling the Tale of Ada Lovelace

Noted mad scientist Stephen Wolfram (the Mathematica guy) applies his inimitable levels of obsession-to-detail to writing a biography of Ada Lovelace. It's really good:

Untangling the Tale of Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace was born 200 years ago today. To some she is a great hero in the history of computing; to others an overestimated minor figure. I've been curious for a long time what the real story is. And in preparation for her bicentennial, I decided to try to solve what for me has always been the "mystery of Ada".

It was much harder than I expected. Historians disagree. The personalities in the story are hard to read. The technology is difficult to understand. The whole story is entwined with the customs of 19th-century British high society. And there's a surprising amount of misinformation and misinterpretation out there.

But after quite a bit of research -- including going to see many original documents -- I feel like I've finally gotten to know Ada Lovelace, and gotten a grasp on her story. In some ways it's an ennobling and inspiring story; in some ways it's frustrating and tragic.

Previously, previously, previously.

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4 Responses:

  1. Tim says:

    I'm not a fan of Wolfram, but that was pretty interesting and well written.

    He couldn't resist a small dig at Ada the language! Not that I can blame him.

    • tfb says:

      He very nearly but not quite managed to avoid mentioning how clever he was as well, which is unusual for him.

  2. Cnris says:

    I don't think of Wolfram as the "Mathmatica" guy anymore, but as the maniac who logged his keystrokes for a decade. As per Previously 1.

  3. Andreas says:

    It's so good! My favorite passage from her letters is in there (the one where she cements her status as the very first programmer): "My Dear Babbage. I am in much dismay at having got into so amazing a quagmire & botheration with these Numbers, that I cannot possibly get the thing done today. …. I am now going out on horseback. Tant mieux."