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Science Careers Blog

December 10, 2012

Happy Birthday Ada Lovelace

Today, Google is marking the 197th birthday of a pioneering woman scientist--Augusta Ada King, Lady Lovelace--with a Google Doodle dedicated to her.

In her own time Lovelace was a giant--and not only because she's Lord Byron's child. Lovelace's mother, Annabella Milbanke, herself a gifted student of mathematics, apparently feared Byron's influence and "raised her under a strict diet of science, logic, and mathematics," according to findingada.com, a Web site dedicated to Lovelace and other women in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). 

Lovelace's mentor, Mary Somerville, introduced her to Charles Babbage, who asked her to translate an Italian-language paper that described his "analytical engine." Her notes for the project--and later an expanded version of the translation that she wrote--include what many consider to be the first computer programs, the first algorithms intended to be executed by a machine. For this reason, she is often called the first computer programmer. According to the newspaper The Guardian, Babbage described Lovelace as "the enchantress of numbers."

Science-related doodles are not rare. In recent weeks, Google has dedicated doodles to the Danish physicist Neils Bohr and the Australian pharmacologist Howard Florey, on their birthdays.

Lovelace died young, at 36, of cancer.

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