3A Global Technique

The English mathematician Ada Lovelace (Figure 3.1), together with her contemporary Charles Babbage (1791–1871), helped to design an “Analytical Engine”, considered to be the ancestor of the computer [CHE 17]. She writes about her invention:

The Analytical Engine has no claim to create something by itself. It can do whatever we can tell it to do. It can follow an analysis: but it does not have the ability to imagine analytical relationships or truths. Its role is to help us do what we already know how to do… (cited in [LIG 87], author’s translation)


Figure 3.1. Ada Lovelace (1815–1852) by Alfred-Edward Chalon, 1840, watercolor (Source: Science Museum, London)

Lovelace designed a mathematical sequence to make it work, nowadays considered the first computer program (in the 1980s, computer scientists named a computer language after her). The development of digital simulation provides proof of the relevance of some of her intuitions. In the notes she transcribed to accompany the translation of Charles Babbage’s texts, she wrote:

Handling abstract symbols (will) allow us to see the relationships of the nature of problems in a new light and to have a better understanding of them (quoted by [CHE 17], author’s translation).

This is what digital simulation does nowadays, becoming more and more efficient. It benefits from developments in IT, and from the increasing ...

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