Ada Lovelace, Genius

I have a peculiar way of learning, and I think it must be a peculiar man to teach me successfully… Do not reckon me conceited… but I believe I have the power of going just as far as I like in such pursuits, and where there is so decided a taste, I should almost say a passion, as I have for them, I question if there is not always some portion of natural genius even.

This is part of a letter that Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, sent to Charles Babbage, requesting him to be her mentor. Walter Isaacson, author of The Innovators, a collection of mini-biographies, included this in Lovelace’s section, commenting: “Whether due to her opiates or her breeding or both… she developed a somewhat outsize opinion of her own talents and began to describe herself as a genius.”

OK, but shouldn’t we insist that the person who designed the foundations of modern-day computer programming — — back in 1843 — -actually is a genius? Lovelace “envisioned a general-purpose machine capable not only of performing preprogrammed tasks but also of being reprogrammed to execute a practically unlimited range of operations,” and began the conversation of technological sentience we’re still having nearly 200 years later (see: Her, sex robots, Bender from Futurama). Let’s give her some more credit: Ada Lovelace was a genius. Happy birthday to her.

[via Brain Pickings.]

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