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Ada Byron Lovelace

Found in: math; social studies; preK-2; 3-5; 6-8; 9-12

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by April Chu (2015)

Though Ada Bryon Lovelace (1815-1852) was the poet Bryon’s daughter, her passion was numbers. Ada is best known for her work with Charles Babbage on the Analytic Engine, a proposed mechanical computer that he designed following his success with the Difference Engine, a mechanical calculator. Ada was seventeen when she met Babbage, but he was so impressed with her mathematical understanding he invited her to work on the project. As she read Babbage’s technical descriptions and studied the diagrams, she realized that the Analytic Engine required instructions, an algorithm. When modern computer scientists tested her software, they found only one minor mistake. Ada is considered by some to be the first computer programmer. Babbage never built his Analytic Engine, though years after Ada died, he built a portion of it. The book includes an author’s note, timeline, and bibliography. The two-page illustrations make for easy reading and showing and offer a glimpse of contemporary England, maps, and detailed blueprints and models. Judged for students in grades 1-4, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine can be used by students in grades 5-8 as a source of ideas for research projects.

March 24 is Ada Lovelace Day. The purpose of Ada Lovelace Day is to spotlight women in STEM.

  • Lesson Plans:

Program Your Friend (582 KB, 2 pgs) Students in are introduced to the concept of an algorithm as a set of ordered instructions for performing a specific task. Program Your Friend - Reference Sheet 1  (530 KB, 1pg)

Lady Lovelace and the Computer Students in grades 6-8 learn about the development of the computer, gain understanding of the role of women in the 19th century, and gain experience in analysis and synthesis of information and hypothesis-making.

Ada Lovelace Day 2015 A toolkit for Ada Lovelace Day with lessons, activities, and tools.

  • Resources:

Ada Lovelace Designed A Computer In The 1840s. A Cartoonist Finishes The Project, Sydney Padua’s cartoon of complete Engine with parts labeled. Links to excerpts from Padua’s graphic novel.

Untangling the Tale of Ada Lovelace A lengthy blog post on Ada Lovelace, Babbage, and the Difference and Analytic Engines. Background or grades 6-12.

Mathematical Treasures: Early Calculating Machines Includes photo of the London Science Museum's construction of the Difference Engine and a patent drawing.

  • Graphic Novels:

Ada Byron Lovelace: The Lady and the Computer (1994) (128 pgs) by Mary Dodson Wade Grades 5-8. Prose biography.

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua (2015) (320 pgs) Mostly true. Padua imagines a universe in which Ada Lovelace did not die of cancer and Charles Babbage actually built his Difference Engine.

  • Videos:

Ada Lovelace (2:10) Mentions Lovelace’s thoughts on further applications in music and graphics.

Charles Babbage’s Analytic Engine (7:41)

Babbage's Difference Engine No. 2 (3:52)

Babbage Difference Engine (No.2) in Motion (16.09)


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