You may not know this, but an auction happened a few weeks ago, 24 July 2018, where the first computer program written in history was bought for $125,000. That computer program was written by none other than the mother of computer science – Ms. Ada Lovelace.
Ada Lovelace was born in 1815 to the Poet Lord Byron and Lady Wentworth. When her father sank into insanity and depravity in Ada’s early years, Ada’s mother decided to focus Ada on mathematics and science in an effort to keep her from the same fate as her father. This put Ada on a path to meeting many great minds in science, but she did not see herself as a pure scientist. She referred to herself as a “poetical scientist” or a “metaphysicist” – seeing connections between both science and humanities.
When she translated a manual on the engine for the Italian Engineer Luigi Menabrea, she included a very lengthy “Notes” section, in which was the first written algorithm. “Her mindset of “poetical science” led her to ask questions about the Analytical Engine (as shown in her notes) examining how individuals and society relate to technology as a collaborative tool.” She envisioned a greater application for computing than many did at her time.
Unfortunately, Ada’s prescient ideas and manuscripts were was lost in antiquity, it was not until the 1930s that further applications of computer science and the ideas of algorithms were explored through Alan Turing. Even then, computer science was not that sexy and was often given to women to work as men were more interested in building and manufacturing. It is likely that the women engineers of NASA, highlighted in the movie Hidden Figures, may not have even known that Ada had influenced their craft so long ago- believing that what they were doing was “women’s work”.
It is so interesting to me how short our memories are in society. Now we have STEM and STEAM programs that perpetuate a narrative that these sciences never included women. It hurts to know that these sciences were pioneered with women but we don’t remember them.
Take a moment today to think of how a woman in history may have influenced you and what you are doing. #AmeliaEarhart.
If you have further interest in celebrating Ada Lovelace, she has a day dedicated to her since 2009 and has been held across Europe during the month of October. This year it is in the UK on 9 October. Check out more information at Ada Lovelace Day.
#bethechange #womeninhistory #computerscience #girlapproved