Tamsin Constable

Delicate meddling

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), used the extraordinary creativity inherited from her father, the poet Lord Byron, along with strict mathematical discipline her mother insisted on (to guard against dangerous poetic feelings), to foresee artificial intelligence. Today, she is credited with being the world’s first computer programmer – a genius who, more than 150 years ago, first understood what computers might be.

Ada worked with Charles Babbage to add copious notes to a paper describing his ambitious work developing an early computer, the ‘analytical engine’. When Babbage made the mistake of editing her words, she fired,

“I am much annoyed at your having altered my Note. You know I am always willing to make any required alterations myself, but that I cannot endure another person to meddle with my sentences.”

He, impressed by her intellect, could find no fault with her, and resorted to poetry to describe her.

Forget this world and all its troubles and if
possible its multitudinous Charlatans – everything
in short but the Enchantress of Numbers.

So, on Ada Lovelace day, (says who?) a reminder that writing, in any form, is a personal act; others, if they must meddle, should take care to do so delicately.

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