Ada Lovelace: how her method of poetical science helped design the modern computer
You might have heard that Nvidia are using their new Lovelace architecture for their brand new 4000 series of graphics cards. Given that it is Ada Lovelace day today, we thought it might be worth having a little history lesson about what many call the world’s first computer programmer.
Born to Lord Byron and Lady Byron, Ada was the only legitimate child of the pair. Even though her father died when she was eight, she was still fascinated by him, even going as so far as naming one of her sons after him in his memory. Despite being the son of a poet, Ada had a knack for mathematics, and was urged by her mother to pursue a career in that field. Ada described her approach to maths and logic as “poetical science”, which feels very apt to me: maths should be taught and studied as a language, as it is the language of the universe. Struck by myriad illnesses as a child, including enduring paralysis as a result of measles, it did not deter her from pursuing her passion. When she was twelve, Ada decided she wanted to fly. She went into the project with gusto, and constructed wings, looking at various materials and sizes; she even studied bird anatomy, akin to Da Vinci’s inventions by taking her inspiration from nature and incorporating it with steam technology. She wrote a book of her experience, titled “Flyology”.
Portrait of Lovelace. Credit: Information Age
As a teenager in June 1833, she met fellow mathematician Charles Babbage through mutual friend Mary Somerville. Often referred to as “the father of computers”, they both began a long working relationship and friendship. She was particularly interested in Babbage’s work on the Analytical Engine. Using her mindset of poetical science, she developed a vision of the capability of computers to go beyond just calculations or number-crunching, going beyond what Babbage was focusing on. She asked questions about the Analytical Engine in her notes, examining how individuals and society relate to technology as a collaborative tool. She worked on many projects and many subjects interested her, including phrenology and mesmerism, and even expressed a desire to study the neurology. She married William King Her life was tragically cut short down to uterine cancer at the age of thirty six on November the 27th, and one can’t help but wonder how many more contributions Lovelace could have made.
To celebrate Lovelace's contribution to the world of computing, the architecture of the RTX series is named after her. You can find our range of builds featuring the 4000 series of graphics cards here.