It is doubtful whether Ada herself "originated" any of the ideas contained in her notes, except perhaps some of the more exuberantly speculative ones. On all technical and scientific points, regardless of how trifling, her letters show that she deferred to Babbage. Babbage, for his part, had good reason to connive in the fiction that the work was primarily Ada's: it not only made her notes a more effective piece of propaganda for his Analytical Engine but also enabled him to escape responsibility--on the pretense of not having been consulted--for some of her more hyperbolic claims. As for the other part of Ada's project--the translation of the Menabrea paper--that was marred by an embarrassing error, one that belies her reputation for mathematical competence...
It was Ada's own reputation that benefitted most from the publication of her notes. Copies distributed to her society friends, including an actor, a playwright, and an art historian, elicited expressions of (bewildered) admiration. The coupling of this apparent scientific accomplishment--such a rarity for a woman--with her existing Byronic stardom made her the object of intense public interest. In 1844, London society buzzed with rumors that she was the anonymous author of a daring new book called "Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation," which prefigured Darwin in depicting humans as the evolutionary product of a universe governed by natural laws. Ada had not written the book. In fact, other than an abortive review of a paper on animal magnetism, she was to write nothing else of any substance for the remainder of her life...
Who was the first programmer? With Ada Lovelace dismissed from contention, one might think that Babbage merited this distinction, too, since he did write a number of programs for his unrealized computer. But computers do not exhaust the universe of programmable things. If "programming" means devising a set of coded instructions that will get an automated contraption to do your bidding, then the first great programmer was Joseph-Marie Jacquard--the Frenchman who, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, pioneered the use of punched cards to get automatic looms to weave complicated patterns. Babbage himself acknowledged Jacquard's precedence: when he presented the concept for his Analytical Engine at the Turin conference, he brought with him a silk portrait of Jacquard that had been produced by an automatic loom programmed by no fewer than twenty-four thousand cards.
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