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Trailblazing Women: reading informational text; Ada Lovelace 7


Read the passage.

The Enchantress of Number: Ada Lovelace

  1. When Ada Lovelace walked into a party in 1833, she probably had no indication that a chance meeting there would impact her life in such a drastic way. Lovelace was 17 at the time. She was intelligent, well educated, and fascinated with mathematics and foreign languages. Interestingly, Lovelace was the daughter of the Romantic poet Lord Byron, but she never really knew him. In an effort to make Lovelace less like her father, her mother encouraged her daughter to study science and math, not literature—and especially not poetry. With the help of her tutor, Lovelace’s intellect in mathematical theory flourished.
  2. So when a mutual friend at the party introduced Ada Lovelace to Charles Babbage (a leading mathematician of the day), Lovelace was able to have a conversation with him on equal terms. Charles was struck by Lovelace’s knowledge and interest, and they talked for a very long time. Later, Charles affectionately called Lovelace “The Enchantress of Number”.
  3. At the time of the party, Ada Lovelace was especially interested in one of Charles’s inventions: the difference machine. This machine was created to perform basic mathematical calculations. Up until this point, all math problems had always been solved by hand. The difference machine meant that some calculations could now be automated.
  4. Later, in 1843, Charles needed help. An engineer from Italy had written an article about Charles’s latest invention, the Analytical Engine. Who did he know that could both understand a complex article containing advanced mathematics and translate it from Italian into English? Ada Lovelace! This opportunity turned out to be a milestone for Lovelace as it enabled her to show her academic prowess in mathematics. You see, Lovelace didn’t just translate the article—she came up with many of her own ideas about how the machine could be adapted to solve even more complex equations. Her notes were the first time that steps to solve certain equations had ever been written down. In other words, Ada Lovelace wrote the very first computer program! Her notes helped clarify for others how to approach difficult mathematical concepts.
  5. Today we depend on computers to accurately make thousands of calculations per second. Lovelace’s pioneering work in mathematics and computer programming transformed the world. Without her contributions or her chance encounter with Charles Babbage—who knows? We might still be doing extremely complex mathematical calculations with a pencil and paper!
What are two central ideas from the passage?
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