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  • Hello lovely people,

  • Welcome to the first entry of 2020 entry my 'historical figures' playlist. If you're

  • just joining us and you enjoy learning about queer or disabled people of the past who did

  • amazing things then subscribe! Today we're going to be talking about Ada Lovelace, an

  • English mathematician and writer, the first to recognise that computers had applications

  • beyond pure calculation and is thus sometimes called the woman who wrote the first algorithm.

  • She lived a tempestuous but sadly short life with many exciting twists that we'll be

  • discussing today!

  • Whilst not necessarily classed as 'disabled' Ada struggled with chronic illness throughout

  • her life and managed to achieve many wonderful things despite dealing with a body that occasionally

  • paralysed

  • - which is something my body does because I have Hereditary Neuropathy with liability

  • to Pressure Palsies, so… I relate.

  • Today's video is sponsored by Skillshare,

  • - it's my first sponsored historical profile, yay!

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  • The Hon. Augusta Ada Byron was born in England on the 10 December 1815 to Anne Isabella Noel

  • Byron, 11th Baroness Wentworth and George Gordon Byron, the 6th Baron Byron, more commonly

  • known as 'Lord Byron the poet and terrible father'

  • - Okay, I added the second bit. But you'll see!

  • Ada's mother, Anne Isabella, commonly nicknamed 'Annabella', was a highly educated and

  • strictly religious woman. As a child her extreme intelligence had been cultivated by her parents

  • who hired as her tutor a former Cambridge University professor. Her education thus proceeded

  • much like that of a Cambridge student; with studies involving classical literature, philosophy,

  • science and mathematics.

  • In fact Lord Byron nicknamed her his "princess of parallelograms".

  • - Right, side note. You may find it confusing that Lord Byron is called 'Lord' Byron

  • despite being a Baron. Well, yes, the British peerage is confusing but to break it down:

  • There are five ranks of peer in the UK:

  • And yes, they still exist.

  • - In descending order: Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount and Baron. Lord is a generic term

  • that is used to denote members of the peerage and most often used by Barons who are rarely

  • addressed by their formal title. The correct way of addressing Byron would be 'The Lord

  • Byron' but no one actually says 'The' because that's unwieldy. Marguesses, Earls

  • and Viscounts are are also commonly addressed as 'Lord' but Dukes aren't because they

  • use the style of 'The Duke of…' (Cambridge for example). Formally you would address them

  • as 'Your Grace' rather than 'My Lord'. Because religion.

  • And that's a story for another time.

  • Annabella was a cold, stiff, religious woman and an unlikely match for the amoral and agnostic

  • poet Lord Byron. She met him socially in 1812 because he had began a relationship with her

  • cousin's wife.

  • Red flag.

  • Byron's popularity was soaring following his many literary successes but he was deeply

  • in debt because he refused to make money from his work as he believed business was not appropriate

  • for a gentleman and seemed to prefer extreme financial distress.

  • [crickets sfx]

  • Red flag.

  • She also suspected that Byron was having an affair with his half sister.

  • Do I need to say it?

  • Red flag!

  • He proposed in October 1812 through her aunt and in response Annabella wrote a scathing

  • summary of his character and refused him, telling her mother "He is a very bad, very

  • good man". However, plagued with an obsession for her modesty and intellect, Byron proposed

  • again in September 1814.

  • Annabella decided that, aware of Byron's rage, philandering, drinking and money troubles,

  • it was her Christian duty to support him and improve his behaviour.

  • [crickets sfx]

  • - What a great basis for a marriage (!)

  • If only she'd had better friends who could point out that was a stupid idea

  • During the summer of 1815, he began to unleash his anger and hostility on his wife. His moods

  • were dark, he drank heavily and began an affair with an actress. Annabella, now pregnant,

  • became extremely distressed and wrote to Byron's half sister, Augusta Leigh,

  • (the afford mentioned half-sister)

  • who traveled to

  • the Byron's home to assist and upon arrival became the new subject of Lord Byron's wrath.

  • On the 10th of December Annabella gave birth to Ada but this only seemed to increase Byron's

  • despair.

  • He had written in letters that he expected his child to be a "glorious boy" and was highly

  • disappointed when she turned out to be a girl. He named her Augusta Ada Byron after the half-sister

  • he was clearly far too fond of, who had the year before given birth to a child that the

  • family were pretty sure was Byron's.

  • So that's… great.

  • On 16 January 1816, Lord Byron commanded that Lady Byron left for her parents' home and

  • took five-week-old Ada with her. It was to be the last time Ada ever saw her father.

  • He left England four months later and officially separated from his wife. Although British

  • law at the time granted full custody of children to the father in cases of separation, Lord

  • Byron made no attempt to claim his parental rights and died of disease in the Greek War

  • of Independence, fighting the Ottoman Empire, when Ada was eight years old.

  • Lady Byron remained incredibly bitter and continued throughout her life to make allegations

  • about her husband's immoral behaviour. Which we probably can't judge her for, to be fair,

  • but it likely wasn't good for her own mental health.

  • In an attempt to prevent Ada from developing her father's perceived insanity, Lady Byron

  • promoted Ada's interest in mathematics and logic, steering her away from anything judged

  • to be 'frivolous'. Ada was not even allowed to see a portrait of her father until her

  • 20th birthday.

  • As you can perhaps already imagine, Ada did not have a close relationship with her mother

  • although due to societal attitudes of the time, which favoured the father in separations,

  • Lady Byron had to present herself as a loving mother. In reality Ada was instead left in

  • the care of her maternal grandmother Judith, who did actually dote

  • on her. In order to prove her 'good mothering' Lady Byron wrote anxious letters to her mother

  • concerning her daughter's welfare-

  • - with a cover saying to show them to people cause yeah...

  • She did have an unfortunate habit of referring to her daughter as 'it' though. Which

  • isn't exactly on the list of prime mothering. Neither is her letter stating: "I talk to

  • it for your satisfaction, not my own, and shall be very glad when you have it under

  • your own."

  • Thanks mom!

  • As a teenager Ada was fiercely watched by close friends of her mother for any sign of

  • moral deviation.

  • Beginning in early childhood Ada struggled with bouts of illness and from the age of

  • eight experienced headaches that obscured her vision-

  • - which I also relate to a lot, having lost the vision in my left eye from a migraine.

  • [sigh] ah, relatable historical figures(!)

  • In June 1829, at the age of 14, she was paralysed during a bout of measles and was subjected

  • to bed rest for nearly a year-

  • - like I was!

  • It took her two years to be able to walk again with the help of crutches, during which time

  • she used a wheelchair.

  • - [relatable nodding face]

  • She used this recovery time to develop her mathematical and technological skills. As

  • a 12-year-old as decided she wanted to fly and went about the project methodically and

  • passionately, constructing wings from different materials and in different sizes. She examined

  • the anatomy of birds to determine the right proportion between the wings and the body

  • and wrote a book with illustrative plates called Flyology because yes, that's just

  • the kind of incredible child she was.

  • Her upbringing was certainly unusual for an aristocratic girl in the 1800s. Mathematics

  • and science were not standard fare for women at the time but she had inherited her mother's

  • extreme intelligence and her father's imaginative prowess. Lady Byron believed that only rigorous

  • study could prevent Ada from developing her father's mental illness (not how that works).

  • Yet she also believed that forcing her daughter to lie completely still for long periods of

  • time whilst awake would develop her self-control.

  • Unsurprisingly Lady Byron did not win any parenting awards.

  • Fortunately Ada had a natural aptitude for numbers and language. She was taught by the

  • social reformer William Frend and the Scottish astronomer and mathematician Mary Somerville,

  • who was one of the first women to be admitted into the Royal Astronomical Society.

  • Around the age of 17 Ada met the famous mathematician

  • and inventor Charles Babbage through Somerville.

  • Babbage clearly saw something great in Ada and became her mentor. She was fascinated

  • with Babbage's ideas and inventions. Known now as 'the father of the computer', Babbage

  • was at that time inventing the difference engine, a machine that performed mathematical

  • calculations, and showed it to Ada before it was finished.

  • In her work Ada often questioned assumptions by integrating poetry and science. While studying

  • differential calculus, she wrote to her tutor Augustus De Morgan:

  • “I may remark that the curious transformations many formulae can undergo, the unsuspected

  • and to a beginner apparently impossible identity of forms exceedingly dissimilar at first sight,

  • is I think one of the chief difficulties in the early part of mathematical studies. I

  • am often reminded of certain sprites and fairies one reads of, who are at one's elbows in one

  • shape now, and the next minute in a form most dissimilar.”

  • She believed that both intuition and imagination were critical to effectively applying mathematical

  • and scientific concepts and valued metaphysics, the brand of philosophy that examines the

  • fundamental nature of reality, as much as mathematics.

  • She described her approach as

  • 'poetical science'.

  • On being presented at court at the age of seventeen she became immensely popular, thanks

  • to both her rather infamous parentage but also her brilliant mind. She danced at many

  • balls, becoming a regular at Court and was described as being dainty and charming.

  • At the age of 20, in July 1835 she married William, 8th Baron King and became Lady King.

  • He supported his wife's academia and they shared a love of horses, going on to have

  • three children… I mean if the most British thing you've ever heard of: love of horses.

  • And they went on have 3 children together: Byron, Anne Isabella (called Annabella) and

  • Ralph Gordon. And yes, all three of them were pretty much named after Ada's parents. She

  • apparently was pretty strong willed!

  • Immediately after the birth of Annabella in 1837, Ada

  • once again became very ill with a bout of cholera. She was already battling with asthma

  • and digestive problems and look months to shake the illness, during which time doctors

  • gave her painkillers like laudanum and opium and reportedly she experienced mood swings

  • and hallucinations

  • - Probably because she was high.

  • Ada was a descendant of the Barons Lovelace, a title that had gone extinct, and thus when

  • her husband was made an Earl in 1838 they chose to take up the mantle 'Earl of Lovelace

  • and Viscount Ockham', making Ada 'Countess of Lovelace'.

  • - Yes, the British aristocracy is confusing. Should I make an explainer video about it?

  • Would that be helpful for future historical videos?

  • Ada was asked to translate an article on Babbage's analytical engine by Italian engineer Luigi

  • Federico Menabrea... ahh names

  • for a Swiss journal. She not only translated the complex scientific

  • language into English (just casually brilliant) but added her own thoughts and ideas on the

  • machine. Her notes, which she named 'Notes', (gotta love an economical girl) ended up being

  • three times longer than the original piece and was published in 1843 in an English science

  • journal. Within them Ada describes how codes could be created for the device to handle

  • letters and symbols along with numbers. She also theorized a method for the engine to

  • repeat a series of instructions, a process known as looping that computer programs use

  • today.

  • Within 'Notes' is what many historians consider to be the first computer programie,

  • an algorithm designed to be carried out by a machine. Yet others refute this, pointing

  • out that Babbage's personal notes from previous years contain the building blocks of Ada's

  • ideas. Either way Ada brought a fresh perspective: a vision for the capability of computers to

  • go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching, while many others, including Babbage himself,

  • focused only on those specific capabilities.

  • So basically Ada was very cool.

  • Her notes were labelled alphabetically from A to G and Note G contained not only the first

  • published algorithm specifically tailored for implementation on a computer but also

  • Ada's dismissal of artificial intelligence. She wrote thatThe Analytical Engine has

  • no pretensions whatever to originate anything. It can do whatever we know how to order it

  • to perform. It can follow analysis; but it has no power of anticipating any analytical

  • relations or truths.” Her objection has gone on to be the subject of much debate,

  • including in Alan Turing's paperComputing Machinery and Intelligenceand yes, I will

  • indeed be doing a historical profile on Alan Turing at some point

  • Ada cared deeply for a number of different academic projects in a range of scientific

  • fields, including phrenology, a pseudoscience which involves the measurement of bumps on

  • the skull to predict mental traits, and mesmerism.

  • Her interest in the brain was part of a long-running

  • pre-occupation, inherited from her mother, about her 'potential' madness. In 1844 she

  • wanted to begin a mathematical model for understanding how the brain gives rise to thoughts and nerves

  • to feelings ("a calculus of the nervous system") but this was never completed.

  • Her interest in mathematics didn't always work out so well though: She created a large

  • gambling syndicate and made an ambitious attempt in 1851 to create a mathematical model for

  • betting but ended up thousands of pounds in debt instead! (and her husband wasn't pleased).

  • She also had a relaxed approach to friendships with men that led to numerous rumours of affairs

  • but in fairness, it wasn't hard for Victorian women to overstep lines!

  • And again, she wasn't as bad as her dadif that's a defence. In 1841 Lady Byron

  • confessed to Ada and her cousin Elizabeth Medora Leigh that Lord Byron had fathered

  • them both-