Math in the Media

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Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Ada and the First Computer," by Eugene Eric Kim and Betty Alexandra Toole.Scientific American, May 1999, pages 66-71.

Although computers are a product of the twentieth century, in the 1800s theidea for a computing machine with an architecture remarkably similar to moderncomputers was developed. Augusta Ada King, daughter of Lord Byron, publishedin 1843 a set of notes describing this "Analytical Engine" which was designedby mathematician Charles Babbage. Due to a lack of funding, the machine wasnever built. This Scientific American article describes the life andwork of Ada, countess of Lovelace. It explains the ideas of Babbage as well asAda's collaboration with him to publish those ideas. The article also commentson the modern controversy over Ada's understanding of and contribution to thiswork.

--- Elizabeth Moisan