• Nicky

The amazing true story of Ada Lovelace

I thought I would write something a bit different for this blog post. I have been looking into the life of Ada Lovelace and find her story utterly amazing and very interesting. I knew a little about her, such as she was the daughter of Lord Byron, she worked with Charles Babbage and she is considered to be the first programmer. But I didn’t really know much more until I listened to an inspiring talk by Dr Hannah Dee and started researching Ada Lovelace myself.


Ada led a truly fascinating life, broke barriers and overcame so many hurdles and yet for so long she was virtually forgotten. Let me enlighten you on what I have learnt. Are you sitting comfortably? Let us begin…we will start the story by finding out about her parents.

Lord Byron
Lord Byron

Father

George Byron was the 6th Baron Byron and was known simply as Lord Byron. He was a politician and regarded as one of the greatest English romantic poets. He wrote “She walks in beauty” and “Don Juan” which he never got to finish before he died. Although his words may have had a beauty to them, his actions certainly did not.


As a talented poet, he studied at Trinity College, Cambridge. Having discovered he could not own a dog, as it was against the college rules, he kept a pet bear instead and insisted on putting it on a lead and taking it for a walk. He became widely known in fashionable circles, hosting and attending lavish parties and liked to shock guests by drinking wine from a human skull his gardener found. He lived a life with aristocratic excesses, which resulted in huge debts and many sex scandals including numerous love affairs with both men and women at a time when bisexuality was considered a crime. One of his lovers, Lady Caroline Lamb, summed him up as "mad, bad, and dangerous to know". Lady Caroline was so enthralled by Byron that she threatened to kill him and herself when he did not pay her enough attention.

The skull Lord Byron drank from
The skull Lord Byron drank from
Anne-Isabella Milbanke
Anne-Isabella Milbanke

Mother

Anne-Isabella Milbanke came from a wealthy family and was nicknamed Annabella. She was highly educated by former Cambridge University professors in classical literature, philosophy, science and mathematics. She was a strictly religious woman so it was surprising she agreed to marry Lord Byron, with his reputation. She had in fact turned down his first proposal but accepted the second. She confessed to her friend, much later in life, that she was “the very good girl determined to save the very bad man”.


They married in January 1815 but Byron’s family had great debts from previous generations and the ancestral home, Newstead Abbey, had fallen into disrepair. Byron and Annabella were soon in financial difficulty, partially because of Byron’s lavish lifestyle, but also because Byron did not want to take payment for his poems as he thought it was ungentlemanly and would prefer to live off his wife’s family’s wealth.


Annabella fell pregnant and Lord Byron began to drink heavily, angry at his mounting debts and his inability to sell off parts of his estate. He would often lose his temper and was increasingly violent towards his wife. He began an affair with another woman, a chorus girl named Susan Boyce who was appearing in a play he was directing. In the late stages of pregnancy, Annabella feared her husband might be going mad and asked Byron’s sister to visit to give her opinion but Byron beat her too and she was forced to flee believing him to be temporarily insane.


Ada’s Birth

Lord Byron expected his child to be a "glorious boy" and was incredibly angry when Annabella gave birth to a girl on 10 December 1815, just 11 months after they got married. They named her Augusta Ada Byron and referred to by her middle name, Ada. Byron wrote to his wife commanding that she and their daughter leave his house and go to live with Annabella’s mother.


When Ada was just 5 weeks old, Annabella took Ada and moved into her mother’s home. Ada would never see her father again as he moved abroad shortly after the separation and died when Ada was just 8 years old.

Ada aged 7
Ada aged 7

Growing up