Illustration Credit: Ella Tjader's Recreation of Ada Lovelace for Sourcebook USA's Fiercely Female 2019 Calendar
Long before any man had built a computer, there was a remarkable woman whose futuristic understanding of computing remained unappreciated and lost to the sands of time.
The Honourable Augusta Ada Lovelace, Countess of Lovelace, is annually recognized for her ingenious mind on the second Tuesday of October. Mother to three, wife to the 1st Earl of Lovelace, Ada was a genius far beyond her times.
According to A Female Genius: How Ada Lovelace started The Computer Age (2013), Ada's biography by James Essinger, Lady Anne Isabella Milbanke, the eleventh Baroness Wentworth and mother to Ada wished to suppress her daughter's imagination from running wild. She fuelled her curiosity but at times feared Ada had inherited the mad streak of her father, the romantic poet George Gordon Byron, the sixth Baron Byron.
That brain of mine is something more than merely mortal, as time will show.
~ Ada Lovelace
At the tender age of twelve, her desire to fly and obsession with machines had led Ada to design a steam-powered flying machine. One that preceded the aerial steam carriage, patented by William Hanson and John Stringfellow in 1842, by 15 years.
But mathematics had her riled; it fascinated and consumed her
Ada was disciplined in the fields of science, mathematics, music and languages. But mathematics had her riled; it fascinated and consumed her. Thus, when acquainted with the renowned Cambridge mathematics professor, Charles Babbage, and his famous Difference Engine (a mechanical tower of numbered wheels that made reliable calculations); she fell head-on into the project of creating a correspondence with the inventor and to impart her own mathematical potential to aid its functionality.
By this time, Charles Babbage had started work on his Analytical Engine; a general-purpose machine comprising parts of a modern-day computer; an arithmetic unit, integrated memory and conditional branching and loops.
In 1842, he delivered a lecture at the University of Turin, which Luigi Federico Menabrea, an Italian engineer, had transcribed in French. Her mathematics tutor, Augustus De Morgan asked Lovelace to transcribe the lecture to English.
The Enchantress Of Numbers
Ada added her notes to Babbage's lecture and got it published in 1843; her only formally published work. It was much appreciated and held in awe by Babbage himself. Lovelace understood the profound capability Babbage's Engine possessed. She could foresee its ability far beyond numbers; its ability to manipulate symbols; compose music, generate graphics and aid science. She wrote the first proper, fully complete computer program to calculate Bernoulli numbers. Impressed with her work, Babbage had named her, "The Enchantress Of Numbers".
Why Is Ada Lovelace Day celebrated?
Ada Lovelace Day (ALD) is the brainchild of Suw Charman Anderson; a journalist, a public speaker, and the former Executive Director of Open Rights Group (a digital rights campaigning group based in London).
Anderson had founded the ALD in 2009 as an effort to celebrate women in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM); acknowledge their struggles and achievements. It was a major motion launched as a response to fuel online discussions about the major issue of invisibility faced by the women in STEM.
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