Google Celebrates Ada Lovelace

Monday’s Google Doodle honors a pioneer of the computer age

Dec 10, 2012 | By Stephanie Kraus with TIME reporting by Harry McCracken

On Monday, December 10, Google Doodle celebrated the 197th anniversary of the birth of Ada Lovelace. She is seen by some as the world’s first computer programmer. Lovelace believed machines could do more than just math. With the help of Charles Babbage, she created the first mathematical formula for a computer. Google’s Doodle illustrates how Lovelace’s idea impacted the world.

Google wrote on their official blog: "We hope today's doodle inspires people to find out more about Ada, and about the contributions made by women in general to science and technology.”

Math Meets Music

Ada Lovelace envisioned the world's first computer 100 years before it was built.
Ada Lovelace envisioned the world's first computer 100 years before it was built.

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, was born on December 10, 1815. Her father, Lord George Gordon Byron, was a poet, and her mother, Lady Anne Isabella Byron, was a mathematician. Lady Byron arranged for her daughter to be tutored in science and math. Ada followed in her mother’s footsteps, eventually becoming a mathematician herself.

At 17, Lovelace became friends with Babbage, a professor of mathematics at Cambridge University. She became interested in his idea to design a computing device. Babbage and Lovelace would write letters back and forth to each other about it. In 1843, Lovelace added details to an article describing the machine. She included step-by-step instructions for how the machine would work.

While Babbage saw the machine as a calculator, Lovelace envisioned a machine that could use symbols and rules to compute more than just math. She even wrote about it making music: “The engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music.”

Lovelace imagined that one a day it would be possible to use a machine for an unlimited number of tasks. The only limitation would be the creativity of the user. The machine was not actually built until 1991. But, Lovelace had envisioned it nearly 100 years before that. It was the world’s first computer.

Doodle Love for Lovelace

Lovelace is one of the few female pioneers of the computer age. Google's Doodle honors her by showing her vision from start to finish. It has Loveless writing her program with a quill pen alongside computers based on her first idea. The last machine shown: a modern laptop playing music, just as Loveless had imagined years ago.