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.
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: