Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace (1815–1852) was a British mathematician who is credited with being the world’s first computer programmer. Although she lived at a time when women were rarely taken seriously, Ada recognised the enormous potential of the ‘calculating machines’ that have developed into the computers we know today. Find out more about this inspirational lady, who tragically died young, and use our printables below to test your knowledge.

Ada Lovelace

Fun Facts

  • In 1980, the US Department of Defence honoured Ada Lovelace by naming a new computer language ‘Ada’ in recognition of her work.
  • Every October (on the second Tuesday of the month), Ada Lovelace Day is held as an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths.

Ada Lovelace Quotes

“That brain of mine is something more than merely mortal: as time will show.”

A short biography of Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace was born ‘Augusta Ada Byron’ in London, England, in 1815. She was the daughter of the famous poet Lord Byron (George) and Lady Byron (Anne). Just weeks after her birth, however, her parents separated. Lord Byron left England and Ada never saw him again. He died in Greece when she was eight.

Ada had a privileged upbringing. Private tutors taught her fashionable subjects such as French and music, but at her mother’s request she also learnt mathematics and science – subjects that weren’t usually taught to young ladies! Ada’s mother made her work hard at her studies, in the hope it would stop Ada from becoming like her father (who was moody and unpredictable!)

Ada had a gift for mathematics from a young age, and it was a joy for her, at 17, to meet Charles Babbage, an esteemed mathematician from the University of Cambridge. Charles had invented a machine known as the ‘difference engine’, which carried out complicated calculations – a type of early calculator. Charles and Ada became good friends, and he opened her eyes to advanced mathematics.

Ada and her mother were fascinated by science and often visited factories to watch steam-driven machinery in action. One particular contraption that caught Ada’s eye was the Jacquard loom, which wove patterned textiles. The loom used punch cards to dictate the design. If the card was punched, the loom thread would rise; if not, the loom thread would stay still. Ada realised these instructions were a type of coding.

Ada also befriended Mary Somerville, one of the most talented female mathematicians of the time. It was Mary who introduced Ada to William King, whom she married at the age of 19. When William became the Earl of Lovelace in 1838, Ada was named Countess of Lovelace. They went on to have three children together, and socialised with many interesting folk of the time, such as the scientist Michael Faraday and the writer Charles Dickens.

In 1843, Ada was asked to translate a French article on Charles Babbage’s latest invention – the analytical engine. Ada not only translated the piece, but also added many comments of her own. In fact, her notes were three times longer than the original article!

The analytical engine was designed to carry out particularly complicated calculations. But Ada recognised its great potential. She suggested it could do more than just calculations – and we now know it to be the first programmable computer. Ada showed that many concepts, such as music or images or the alphabet, could be converted into numbers that formed the basis of instructions or codes. The machine could then compose music, for example, or create designs based on numbers. She also showed that the machine could repeat instructions - a process known as ‘looping’ which computers use today.

Although the analytical engine was never made, it is now regarded as the model for an early computer, with Ada’s algorithms (written instructions for a computer to follow) recognised as the first computer program. Ada published the article under her initials AAL, but the piece attracted little attention during her lifetime.

Ada died in London in 1852 at just 36 years of age, from uterine cancer. At her request, she was buried next to her father, Lord Byron, at a graveyard in Nottingham, England. Her contribution to the development of computer science wasn’t discovered until nearly 100 years later in the 1950s, and she was granted many honours posthumously (after her death). Ada’s life was cut tragically short, but her legacy is bound to live on in the computer-dependent age we have become accustomed to.

Our Ada Lovelace Resources

A Letter To Ada Lovelace Worksheet

A Letter To Ada Lovelace Worksheet

Write a letter to Ada Lovelace telling her about how you use computers in your daily life and what you would miss most if we didn't have them. A great worksheet to get the kids thinking...

Ada Lovelace Comprehension

Ada Lovelace Comprehension

The kids will need to pay attention to the text and extract the important facts so they can answer the questions at the end of this Ada Lovelace comprehension worksheet. 

Ada Lovelace Factsheet

Ada Lovelace Factsheet

Learn some facts about the inspirational and talented Ada Lovelace with the help of our two-page factsheet.

Ada Lovelace Interview Worksheet

Ada Lovelace Interview Worksheet

Can the children imagine they are interviewing Ada Lovelace for a talk show? Remember that simple, open questions have many possible answers, and are a good foundation for a successful interview...

Ada Lovelace Notebooking Page

Ada Lovelace Notebooking Page

Ada Lovelace imagined the idea for a modern-day computer. Find out a little bit about her and use our notebooking page to write it down.

Ada Lovelace Poster

Ada Lovelace Poster

This cartoon style poster of Ada Lovelace is simple to print out and use in classroom displays and projects.

 

Ada Lovelace Poster 2

Ada Lovelace Poster 2

This stunning poster features a portrait of mathematician and one of the first computer programmers, Ada Lovelace, painted by Margaret Carpenter in 1836.  

Ada Lovelace Quote Poster

Ada Lovelace Quote Poster

"A new, a vast, and a powerful language is developed for the future use of analysis." Ada Lovelace was certainly ahead of her time when she said the quote on this poster! Perfect for displaying in your school computer room or at home...

Ada Lovelace Quote Worksheet

Ada Lovelace Quote Worksheet

Ada Lovelace is credited with being the world's first computer programmer. Here's a fun worksheet featuring one of her quotes.

Ada Lovelace Story Paper

Ada Lovelace Story Paper

Children can use our Ada Lovelace story paper to write a short biography, or maybe use it for some creative writing. We have two versions, lined and with handwriting lines.

Ada Lovelace Story Paper 2

Ada Lovelace Story Paper 2

Ada Lovelace was known as the "Mother Of Computer Science". You can write down some other facts about this remarkable woman on this story paper.

Ada Lovelace Timeline Worksheet

Ada Lovelace Timeline Worksheet

A timeline is a display of a list of events in chronological order. Can the children fill in this timeline with the events in the life Ada Lovelace?

Ada Lovelace Word Search

Ada Lovelace Word Search

Find all the words to do with the incredible Ada Lovelace hidden in the wordsearch grid. We've included the solution below too...

Ada Lovelace Worksheet

Ada Lovelace Worksheet

Our fact-finding worksheets are designed to encourage your children to learn about new topics and people, and this one is all about mathematician Ada Lovelace. 

Ada Lovelace Writing Page

Ada Lovelace Writing Page

Our writing pages are a fun way to start younger children researching and writing about famous people - in this case, mathematician Ada Lovelace.

Design a Women in Science Poster

Design a Women in Science Poster

There are a still a lot fewer women working in science and engineering compared to men. Can the kids use their persuasive writing skills and an eye-catching design to create a poster encouraging more girls to consider a science or engineering career? 

Design an Award for Ada Lovelace Worksheet

Design an Award for Ada Lovelace Worksheet

The Ada Lovelace Awards are presented yearly to celebrate the women who have made the biggest impact in technology, but can you design an award that you think should have been presented to Ada Lovelace herself?

Have Computers Made The World Better Worksheet

Have Computers Made The World Better Worksheet

Computers are such a big part of our daily lives it's hard to imagine how our lives would be like without them! This worksheet asks the children to consider if computers really have made the world better...

History of Computers Timeline Worksheet

History of Computers Timeline Worksheet

Computers have evolved relatively quickly from the earliest machines to the advanced computers we use today for surfing the internet, working and playing games. Can the kids find out the history of computers and mark the important events on this History of Computers timeline worksheet?

Learn to Draw Ada Lovelace

Learn to Draw Ada Lovelace

Just for fun, children can practise their people-drawing skills with this step by step lesson on how to draw mathematician Ada Lovelace. 

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