Mar 252010

Ada Lovelace, enchantress of numbers

When it’s quiet on the bridge pop over to the ECDIS or AIS and say “Thanks, Ada Lovelace”, especially if there’s a female officer on the bridge. Who was she? And why should you.

Ada Lovelace was a remarkable mathematician, and daughter of Lord Byron, who wrote the first computer program and was the first person to actually write about computers and what today we call software. All the stuff that makes your ECDIS and AIS work.

She corresponded with Charles Babbage who designed the analytical engine and wrote a program for it to calculate what are known as Bernoulli numbers. She realised that with a bit of tweaking the Analytical Engine would be able to calculate almost anything and figured out how to program it.

She was among those pioneering women whose efforts put women in command of ships and, in this case, the electronic equipment to navigator them.

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