Rediscovering Ada Lovelace's Mathematics

23 May 2016
Ursula Martin

Part of the series 'What do historians of mathematics do?'

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) is famous as "the first programmer" for her prescient writings about Charles Babbage's unbuilt mechanical computer, the Analytical Engine. Biographers have focused on her tragically short life and her supposed poetic approach – one even dismissed her mathematics as "hieroglyphics". This talk will focus on how she learned the mathematics she needed to write the paper – a correspondence course she took with Augustus De Morgan – which is available in the Bodleian Library. I'll also reflect more broadly on things I’ve learned as a newcomer to the history of mathematics.