October 7th is Ada Lovelace Day – a day designated “to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science.”
Ada Lovelace, the estranged daughter of Lord Byron, worked with Charles Babbage in the mid-19th century on the development of the Analytical Engine – the world’s first general-purpose computer. Although the Analytical Engine was never built, Ada’s extensively detailed notes on the algorithm and method for calculating a sequence of Bernoulli numbers by the Engine is widely recognized as the first computer program, giving Ada the distinction as the world’s First Computer Programmer.
Ada, who had a remarkable aptitude for advanced mathematics, was described by almost everyone as beautiful, dainty, and charming. Babbage himself declared her “The Enchantress of Numbers” when he wrote:
Forget this world and all its troubles and if
possible its multitudinous Charlatans – every thing
in short but the Enchantress of Numbers.
-Charles Babbage, writing of Ada Lovelace in 1843
Ada’s only detractor was a friend of her father’s, John Hobhouse, whose advances she had apparently rebuffed. Afterwards, he described her as “a large, coarse-skinned young woman but with something of [Lord Byron’s] features, particularly the mouth.” Not only was Ada a beautiful and intelligent woman who had a hand in the development of the first computer, but her interaction with Mr. Hobhouse inspired an early version of today’s internet troll commenters.
Mrs. Lovelace died in 1852 at the young age of thirty-six from the bloodletting attempted by her physicians to cure her uterine cancer. A century and a half later The Analytical Engine was finally built, and the computer language Ada named in her behalf.
The Analytical EnGine Cocktail –
- 2 oz gin
- 3/4 oz orange liqueur (TheNerdista used Triple Sec)
- The Juice of 1 freshly squeezed lime (about 1/2 oz)
- 2 dashes aromatic bitters (TheNerdista used Angostura)
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with a generous amount of ice. The Analytical EnGine tastes best when you shake it till you earn one cardio exercise unit for the week. Shake, shake, shake this baby till the liquid is filled with tiny shards of broken ice. Strain cocktail into a martini glass. Serve immediately!
The century-and-a-half difference between the invention of Babbage’s Analytical Engine and its production so many generations later is the basis for the Alternate History genre Steampunk. Babbage’s machine wasn’t built in the 1850’s due to lack of funding but many authors imagine how the world might have looked if the computer age came during the victorian era. One such book exploring this idea, and featuring the character of Ada Lovelace, is The Difference Engine, penned by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.