Today is the birthday of Ada Lovelace, the woman known as the first computer programmer, and, as it turns out, a musical pioneer.


She’s celebrated today, but back then, not so much; her famous father, Lord Byron, declared his newborn daughter “an implement of torture” (!!!) and abandoned her pretty much immediately afterward.

Fortunately, Lady Byron was much more involved, and directed that young Ada be tutored in math and science, subjects for which the youngster quickly proved gifted.

Later, she would work with Charles Babbage, who developed a device called the Analytical Engine.

He never fully finished it, but it was the first concept for a computing device that could calculate and process information through programs.

In 1843, Lovelace translated one of Babbage’s papers into Italian, including her own annotations about how the Analytical Engine could be directed to show a math sequence known as Bernoulli numbers.

That’s where computer programming started.

But Lovelace was also a capable musician who thought at one point about pursuing a career as a performer.

And she saw that future Analytical Engines could do more than calculate numbers.

If someone found a way to input the frequencies of musical notes into a language the Engine could understand, she wrote, “the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.”

Unfortunately Lovelace didn’t live long enough to become the world’s first electronic musician, but she did put the idea out there.

So anyone who’s ever used a device to create a song or record one is following in her footsteps.

Today in 1869 Wyoming territory passed a law guaranteeing that women could vote and hold office, the first such law in the US.

Later, when Congress offered to make Wyoming a state if they dropped the law, the territory said no chance, we go into the Union with our suffrage law or not at all.

And in 1890, Wyoming became the 44th state with the law intact – that’s why it’s nicknamed the Equality State.

Remembering Ada Lovelace, computer-music prognosticator (Boston Globe)

Wyoming marks 150 years since first US law empowering women to vote (Travel Wyoming)

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Ada Lovelace painting by Henry Phillips (1852)

Synth photo by Pete Brown via Wikicommons/Creative Commons