Augusta Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace, commonly known as Augusta Ada Lovelace, invented the first version of what would later become known as computer programming. Specifically, Lovelace created a system that enabled an early version of a computer to calculate Bernoulli numbers.
In 1832, at the age of 17, Lovelace attended an exhibit of Charles Babbage who was displaying his invention, which he called the Difference Engine. The Difference Engine was one of the earliest computers invented, and it was capable of calculating mathematical problems. However, the machine was limited by the fact that it could only interpret and calculate equations that contained only numbers. Lovelace, having a passion for mathematics, wrote to Babbage, and the two later collaborated on a subsequent invention, known as the Analytical Machine.
Originally, Lovelace was only supposed to translate Babbage’s notes regarding the Analytical Machine, but she soon came up with a way to improve the invention. She discovered that punch cards could be used to instruct the Analytical Machine to interpret letters as well as numbers, making the machine capable of calculating a wider array of mathematical problems.
Babbage’s and Lovelace’s work did not receive much attention in the scientific community until the early 1970s. At this time, the Department of Defense created a standardized computer language and named it ADA to honor Lovelace’s groundbreaking work.