5 Jun: When Lovelace Met Babbage

When Lord Byron’s 17 year-old daughter, Ada Lovelace, attended a soirée at the home of academic Charles Babbage on 5th June, 1833, the pair hit it off immediately. He invited her to see his ‘Difference Engine’ – an early mechanical calculator – kicking off a correspondence that lasted throughout her life.

Their lively, intellectual correspondence, and Ada’s deep understanding of mathematics and science, lead to her championing of Babbage’s ‘Analytical Engine’, a groundbreaking proto personal computer for which Ada even wrote an algorithm.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly debate whether Ada deserves her 21st century acclaim as the godmother of computer programming; expose her extramarital affairs and gambling habit; and consider whether Babbage himself even fully understood the applications for what he had invented…

Further Reading:

• ‘Charles Babbage’s Difference Engines and the Science Museum’ (Science Museum, 2023): https://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/objects-and-stories/charles-babbages-difference-engines-and-science-museum

• ‘How Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage Invented the World’s First Computer: An Illustrated Adventure in Footnotes and Friendship’ (The Marginalian, 2015): https://www.themarginalian.org/2015/06/15/the-thrilling-adventures-of-lovelace-and-babbage-sydney-padua/

• ‘Ada Lovelace in “Victoria” (ITV, 2019):