Linda Scheller


                                                                Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)

Catalyst of scandal, my father, Lord Byron, 
Fancied passion, like wine, as a temporary muse.
He married my mother, Princess of Parallelograms,
Who fled his profligacy when I was barely one.

I was thoroughly taught mathematics, inverse 
Of his madness, and the Furies attended me, 
Heedful of any impropriety. Divided by
Paralysis and crutches, my childhood 
Was a cipher of headaches and bed rest. 
I learned early that infirmity equals urgency. 

The windows made visible the world of air 
And its denizens, birds, whose flight suggests 
Fairies, unseen but no less real. The gardener
Brought me a crow’s wing, and my tutor 
Provided me with books and a lap desk. 
Proportion of wingspan to body length and
A frame durable yet light I discerned at twelve. 
I theorized steam might someday hold me aloft. 

Music is the daughter of logic and beauty, 
Mathematics her lingua franca.
Verse is song reduced. Poetry, dance,
And my gilded harp spoke to me in clouds, 
Positing new theorems, revealing 
Patterns and causation, suggesting flight.
My Notes show how imagination
Penetrates the mysteries of nature. 
Sequenced operations balance 
Accuracy and speed. I predict that
Mortal minds will soon command 
The agencies of constancy and change.
Six squared, my last year hovers over
Great Cumberland Place,
The ratio of life to time 
Reduced to simplest terms. 
Bright feathers of calculation, 
Postulates and algorithms, 
Flights of Bernoulli numbers 
Dart across the engine of my brain, 
This machine of nerves and blood 
Fueled by poetry and numbers.

Ada Lovelace collaborated with Charles Babbage on his Analytical Engine, 
an early mechanical general-purpose computer. She translated an article by 
the Italian military engineer Luigi Menabrea, and within her copious notes 
there is an algorithm that she developed which many regard as the first 
computer program.