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Ada Lovelace: the first computer programmer

The only legitimate child of the poet Lord Byron, Ada Lovelace described her approach to mathematics as “poetical science” and herself as an “analyst (and metaphysician)”. She worked alongside her friend Charles Babbage and in 1843 produced a set of ‘Notes’ to her translation of the Italian Luigi Menabrea’s article about Babbage’s Analytical Engine.

It is Lovelace’s Notes that had the lasting impact. In specifying an algorithm to be carried out by a machine, many today view this as the first ever computer programme.

Where others, including Babbage, focused on calculation and number-processing, Lovelace saw that computers could go much further: she examined how individuals and society could relate to technology as a collaborative tool.

This is one of a series of stories about the impact of new thinkers, installed on the walls of the Islington head office of Innovate UK’s Knowledge Transfer Network.

Kasper de Graaf
Kasper de Graaf
Kasper is a writer and producer with wide experience of innovation in cities, industry and institutions. He has delivered innovation schemes in Vancouver, Istanbul, London, Manchester, Glasgow and numerous other cities. Kasper led the South Bank IQ research study about innovation in South London and co-authored the study ‘Creating a Manchester Design Manifesto’ with Lou Cordwell. He is a director of the design group Images&Co and the arts and culture organisation 2NQ, a steering board Member of the UK Design Action Plan (designactionplan.org) and vice-chair of the Finsbury Park Trust. He has produced Design Manchester’s annual public debate about design and society since 2014 and chaired it since 2018. [Photo: Jake Bernard]

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