Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace

On Dorset Street in London, when Victoria was queen,
The ingenious Charlie Babbage built a very strange machine,
And, collaborating closely, the brilliant Lady King,
Augusta Ada Countess Lovelace wrote a program for the thing.

Babbage was a polymath, an engineer, and more.
Marx used his economic study of the fact'ry floor.
He broke the Vigenère cypher but was not allowed to boast.
He invented the cow-catcher. He proposed the Penny Post.

Ada's father was Lord Byron, the idol of romantics.
They worshipped all his poetry. They swooned at all his antics.
Position, education, wealth, and beauty Ada had,
And she was very good at math, unlike her famous dad.

One day when Charles was looking at a logarithmic table,
He thought of how much labor could be saved if he were able
To build the Difference Engine which would do the calculation.
He started making plans. He asked for funding from the nation.

The Difference Engine took more work than Charles thought it would do.
Moreover, as he pondered, his ambitions grew and grew.
Securing funding wasted time in bickering political.
So he conceived a new machine, the Engine Analytical.

Ada learned about his project and she felt a joyous thrill.
She foresaw how many purposes this engine would fulfil.
She expounded the design and wrote an algorithm, truly,
To calculate the values of the numbers of Bernoulli.

Ada died at thirty-six, like her father did before.
But Babbage labored on; the goal receded more and more.
Charles died when he was eighty, the Engine incomplete.
The time was not quite ready for this engineering feat.

At first they were forgotten, but many decades later
The interest in early computation grew much greater.
So Babbage's computer has won everlasting fame
And midst the stars eternally inscribed is Ada's name!


This is part of the collection Verses for the Information Age by Ernest Davis