Lot 53
  • 53

King, Augusta Ada, Countess of Lovelace

18,000 - 25,000 USD
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  • PEN, INK
Autograph letter signed "A.A. Lovelace," 1 p, 8vo (integral blank), Ashley Combe, Porlock, September 6, [ca. 1839]. Matted, glazed and framed to 390 x 545 mm. Creases where previously folded, small piece of paper loss to integral blank.


Christie's The Origins of Cyberspace, Feb 23, 2005, lot 31 — Bonham's 2015, lot 3

Catalogue Note


Ada writes to her friend, celebrated English journalist Albany Fonblanque (1793-1872), in full:"Have you forgotten your promise to come here? The weather seems now very tolerable (& sometimes really delightful). — Babbage is here. I hope you will come before he goes."

Ada Lovelace was the only legitimate child of the great English Romantic poet Lord Byron and his wife Anne Isabella Milbanke, Baroness Wentworth. She later married William King, the eighth Baron King, who was elevated to an earldom, making Ada the Countess of Lovelace. While she was the progeny of one of the most famous poets in history, it can be argued that her influence upon the world is far greater than her father's ever was. Having grown up without knowing her father, Ada's mother supplied her with a number of excellent tutors, including one in mathematics, which was highly unusual for a woman at the time. She proved to excel in this field, and continued studying mathematics through adulthood, receiving tutoring from the first professor of mathematics at the University of London, Augustus DeMorgan.

When she was just 18 years old and he was 42, Ada became friends with the famous Charles Babbage (1791-1871), who referred to her as the "Enchantress of Numbers." Fascinated with his Difference Engine, the first mechanical computer, she became involved with his plan for the Anaytical Engine, offering him her services as a mathematician. At Babbage's suggestion, Ada executed a masterful translation of Luigi Menabrea's article on the Analytical Engine. She augmented the translation with notes that ended up being longer than Menabrea's paper, and which were later published in Taylor's Scientific Memoirs under her initials "AAL." In these notes, she describes an algorithm for Babbage's Analytical Engine which is considered to be the first algorithm ever specifically intended to be used on a computer. It is thanks to this work that she is recognized as being the first ever computer programmer.