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Ada Lovelace Day Honors 'the First Computer Programmer'

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Self-taught mathematician Ada Lovelace.

Every October, scientists celebrate a 19th-century visionary, and the achievements of all women in science, engineering, and math.

Credit: Hulton Archive Getty Images

Pioneering 19th-century English mathematician Ada Lovelace is honored on the second Tuesday of every October for her contributions to computer programming, which include a seminal paper detailing the function of an "Analytical Engine."

Former Open Rights Group executive director Suw Charman-Anderson in 2009 accorded this recognition to Lovelace to celebrate women's accomplishments in math, science, and engineering.

In 1843, Lovelace translated a French paper about mathematician Charles Babbage's Difference Engine--a precursor to the Analytical Engine--and also provided annotations illustrating a description of the machine's workings. Her notes demonstrated how such a calculator might be able to compute Bernoulli numbers in a process that some describe as the world's first computer program.

Randolph-Macon College professor Adrian Rice says a more accurate description of Lovelace would be the world's first debugger, since she unearthed a major error in Babbage's calculations.

Lovelace is credited with inspiring improvements to Babbage's machine for both calculating tables and printing results.

From Scientific American
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