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Mental Health Information

Mental Health in History: Ada Lovelace’s Struggle With Mood Disorders

By May 11, 2023No Comments
Ada Lovelace by DALL-E

I’m fascinated with mental health and history. The advent of LLM’s is making it possible for NAMI Montana to explore and tell these stories in a more in-depth manner.

Written by ChatGPT 4 with Prompt Pestering by Matt Kuntz


Ada Lovelace, born Augusta Ada Byron on December 10, 1815, is often celebrated for her pioneering contributions to the field of computer science. As the daughter of the famous poet Lord Byron and his wife, Anne Isabella Milbanke, Lovelace was destined for greatness. Despite the challenges she faced, including a tumultuous family life and a struggle with mood disorders, Ada Lovelace’s intellect and determination propelled her to break barriers in a male-dominated field. Today, we delve into the personal struggles of this remarkable historical figure and how her mental health shaped her life and achievements.

A Turbulent Upbringing

Growing up in an unstable environment, Ada Lovelace’s mental health was influenced by her parents’ rocky relationship. Her father, Lord Byron, was known for his erratic behavior and emotional instability, which was likely an early manifestation of bipolar disorder. Ada’s mother, determined to steer her daughter away from her father’s poetic temperament, ensured Ada received an education focused on mathematics and science. Ironically, it was this education that would lay the foundation for Lovelace’s groundbreaking work in computer science.

Ada Lovelace – “Those who have learned to walk on the threshold of the unknown worlds, by means of what are commonly termed par excellence the exact sciences, may then, with the fair white wings of imagination, hope to soar further into the unexplored amidst which we live.”

Living with Mood Disorders

As Ada grew older, she began to exhibit symptoms of mood disorders, including bouts of severe depression and mood swings. Some historians speculate that she may have inherited a predisposition to mental health challenges from her father. Ada’s letters and memoirs document her ongoing battle with these disorders, revealing a deep emotional turmoil that often interfered with her ability to work and maintain relationships.

Despite these challenges, Ada Lovelace persevered and continued to make significant strides in her studies. Her collaboration with Charles Babbage, the father of the computer, led to the creation of the Analytical Engine, a mechanical device considered to be the first general-purpose computer. Ada’s work on the engine and her subsequent publication of the world’s first computer algorithm cemented her status as a pioneer in the field.

Support and Recovery

Throughout her life, Ada Lovelace was fortunate to have a strong support network that included her mother, husband, and close friends. Their encouragement and understanding played a crucial role in her ability to manage her mood disorders and continue her groundbreaking work.

Although mental health treatments were limited during Ada’s time, she sought help through various means, including using opium to self-medicate. Unfortunately, her reliance on opium would eventually contribute to her untimely death at the age of 36 due to uterine cancer.

Legacy and Inspiration

Ada Lovelace’s resilience and determination to break barriers in the face of adversity serve as an inspiration to those struggling with mental health issues. Her achievements demonstrate that even in the most challenging circumstances, it is possible to make a lasting impact on the world.

As we continue to break down the stigma surrounding mental health, it is essential to remember and celebrate historical figures like Ada Lovelace, who battled mood disorders and still managed to change the course of history. Her story serves as a reminder that mental health challenges do not define a person’s worth or their ability to achieve greatness.


Ada Lovelace’s story is one of resilience, determination, and unparalleled genius. Her struggle with mood disorders, while undoubtedly challenging, did not deter her from making significant contributions to the world of computer science. Today, as we reflect on her life and legacy, let us remember the importance of supporting those who face mental health challenges and celebrating their accomplishments, as well as our own.

Read more about Ada Lovelace and her struggles with mood disorders in Maria Popova’s brilliant article on her in The Marginalian.

Find out more about mental health conditions at the NAMI Montana website.