Happy Ada Lovelace Day!
For those of you who might not be familiar with what today represents, Ada Lovelace Day is a celebration of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).
The reason this day is named after her, is because she’s considered the world’s first computer programmer, a title that is extraordinary in itself, and yet she’s rarely mentioned alongside the men that dominate the history of STEM. This day is a celebration of women who work in these more male-dominated fields, and is a way of recognising and raising awareness of the important research and contributions that women make in STEM.
So, in honour of Ada Lovelace Day today, I’m posting a long overdue Inspirational Women in Tech piece talking about her accomplishments as a woman in maths and computing, at a time where women weren’t even encouraged to go into education!
ADA LOVELACE Computing visionary and the first computer programmer
Ada Lovelace is widely considered the world’s first computer programmer, although some historians do dispute this due to her close work with Charles Babbage, who is known as the father of computers. Born in London in 1815, she grew up in an era where girls weren’t encouraged to engage in the sciences; the only reason she did pursue maths was due to her mother’s adamance that she not turn out like her poet father, Lord Byron!
At 18, she met and began working closely with the mathematician and engineer Charles Babbage, who designed and built a small working model of the first mechanical computer called the Difference Engine in 1822, and who is known today as the father of the computer. Lovelace became enthralled with his ideas of a mechanical computer and when he began to design the Analytical Engine, a computer for making more general calculations, Lovelace saw more potential for it than even Babbage himself.
Despite the first programmable computer not being invented until 1936 (84 years after her death), her thoughts on the potential application of such engines, which she noted in great detail while translating Luigi Menabrea’s article on Analytical Engines from french, were so original for the time that even now they are considered visionary. In her notes (which were almost twice as long as Menabrea’s original article!), she realised the potential for Babbage’s engine to not only be used as a way of making calculations with numbers, but also theorised on how it could be used to apply calculation regarding real world problems such as composing symphonies if set up to do so, and included what is now considered as the first computer program.
Quite an accomplishment, considering the computer she wrote it for was merely hypothetical at the time!
Whether you work in the STEM fields or not, I’m sure you’ll agree that Ada was a remarkable woman, and hopefully you, like many others, have found some inspiration from her story. For me, she’s a figure I will always admire, and she will hopefully be seen as an inspiring role model for generations of women, and men, to come.