Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ada Lovelace - IOT

In Our Time's issue about Ada Lovelace gave me the impression at the beginning Ada Lovelace was in a way the first computer scientist. By the end of the program it has become clear that even though much can be ascribed to Lovelace, what exactly is hers and what, for example, was the contribution of Babbage remains something of a mystery. What is essential though, and that makes this podcast yet another fine production, is that Lovelace, Babbage and some of their colleagues conceived of computing.

When listening again to the introduction, this is revealed to have been the intent of this episode. Even though we speak here of 19th century mathematicians, computer science remains dormant well into the twentieth century. When the British employ the famous (or infamous) Alan Thuring to crack the German codes, some of Lovelace's work is rediscovered.

Apparently it is Thuring who began to ascribe to Lovelace the deepest of insights: the computing machine could be applied beyond the realm of calculations. And so we tend to credit Lovelace. To Lovelace podcasters and bloggers are indebted, so it seems. An as for historical insight, when looking at the history of science and technology, we see here how theory preceded practice. As with some of the best stuff (think of Darwin, think of Einstein).

More In Our Time:
The Social Contract,
Plate Tectonics,
The Fisher King,
The Charge of the Light Brigade,
Albert Camus.

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