October 16, 2012

Hip hip hooray! It’s Ada Lovelace Day!

As a woman sitting at the intersection of computing and science I have deep respect for Ada Lovelace. Who is Ada? She is widely understood to be the world’s first computer programmer, way back in the 19th century. She was also the daughter of the poet Lord Byron. Because her mother feared Ada would inherit some of her father’s “artistic” temperament, she pushed the young Ada to study the natural world and the science and math behind it. In 1833 Ada was introduced to mathematician Charles Babbage. It was under Babbage’s tutelage that Ada developed an article which contained several computer programs. These notes remained theoretical until they served as inspiration for Alan Turing’s work on the first modern computers in the 1940s.

Okay, so now you know who Ada Lovelace is, but why am I yammering on about her? Because Ada Lovelace is inspirational, she should stand at the head of the class for any woman—young, old, or in the middle—who hopes to leave her mark on this world in science, technology, engineering, or math. Ada, in my mind, is right up there with Elizabeth Britton, co-founder of The New York Botanical Garden as a true inspiration. Elizabeth was a scientist and teacher. She was an early advocate for the planting of native plants in order to maintain healthy ecosystems. She traveled around the world, wrote hundreds of scientific papers, described new genera and species, and was the only woman amongst the 25 charter members of the Botanical Society of America.

Both Ada and Elizabeth set out to blaze their own trails, societal norms be damned! Do you know a girl or young woman struggling to hold her own in the STEM fields? Tell her about Ada, tell her about Elizabeth, and tell her to keep going. The world needs more women pushing these boundaries and more role models like Ada and Elizabeth. ~AR

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    Happy Ada Lovelace Day!
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    Awesome ladies!
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