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The early mathematical education of Ada Lovelace

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    Rights statement: 2017 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/ by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-234
Number of pages14
JournalBSHM Bulletin: Journal of the British Society for the History of Mathematics
Issue number3
Early online date1 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sep 2017


Ada, Countess of Lovelace, is remembered for a paper published in 1843, which translated and considerably extended an article about the unbuilt Analytical Engine, a general-purpose computer designed by the mathematician and inventor Charles Babbage. Her substantial appendices, nearly twice the length of the original work, contain an account of the principles of the machine, along with a table often described as 'the first computer program'. In this paper we look at Lovelace's education before 1840, which encompassed older traditions of practical geometry; newer textbooks influenced by continental approaches; wide reading; and a fascination with machinery. We also challenge judgements by Dorothy Stein and by Doron Swade of Lovelace's mathematical knowledge and skills before 1840, which have impacted later scholarly and popular discourse.

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