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Ada Byron was a century ahead of her time

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Ada Byron, who lived from 1815 to 1852, was the daughter of the poet Lord Byron. Her parents separated when she was just 5 weeks old.

Lady Byron feared Ada might have inherited poetical talents from her father, so she immersed her daughter in mathematics and sciences. When she was 17, Ada was introduced to Charles Babbage at a dinner party and was spellbound by his ideas for a calculator he called the Analytical Engine.Nearly 10 years later Ada translated an Italian article about Babbage's proposed engine. She added seven technical essays, or "notes" as she called them, expounding on the possibilities of the machine Babbage envisioned.

Babbage never built his machine. But Ada's notes are now part of computer history. In them, Ada predicted the possibilities of computers - that calculating engines might be used to compose music, create graphics and solve complex problems.

Betty Toole, author of the book "Ada, The Enchantress of Numbers," says Ada suggested a plan to Babbage for how his engine might calculate Bernoulli numbers.

"This plan is now regarded as the first `computer program,' " Toole notes. In 1979, the U.S. Department of Defense named a new software language "Ada" in her honor.

Ada died at the age of 36 of cancer.