Hey everyone, Gina here!
Sadly, few people know anything about the world's first computer programmer; the person who wrote the world's first computer algorithm before the first computer was even invented and created the foundation upon which they have been programmed since: enter, Ada Lovelace.
Similarly to most other women in the field, Lovelace has been overlooked as a pioneer of science and technology. Her impact upon the world of technology has been questioned – albeit by the type of bigoted people who simply have a problem with women advancing in such fields-, but no one truly educated about this woman can deny that her work was the basis for how we program computers today.
Ada Lovelace was born in 1815, the child of renowned poet Lord Byron and his wife Anne, who adored mathematics as her daughter later would. Mathematics professor George Babbage – now revered for being 'the father of the computer'- asked Ada to translate an Italian description of his Analytical Machine, and in doing so she created her own additional set of notes and a way of calculating a sequence of bernoulli numbers from diagramming the computations which the machine would make and in doing so, wrote what is essentially the first computer algorithm.
Ada's interest in mathematics continued throughout her life - she referred to herself as a poetical scientist and an analyst and meta-physician- and though her algorithm was undoubtedly her most prestigious accomplishment, her general extroverted interest in science and mathematics was rare and dangerous in a time when women with any advanced intellectual eagerness were regarded with strong suspicion, known as blue stockings, and often branded wrongly as people to be avoided for simply for striving for intelligence over beauty.
Despite the societal dismissal of female intellectuals in her time, Ada continued to pursue her interests. She accurately predicted that her method of algorithms in computing could one day allow us to expand beyond numerical calculations and suggested that it would be feasible for use with symbols or anything with a fixed set of rules. Sure enough we have made massive strides since then and computers are incredibly useful tools for academics and scholars of many subjects, as well as being globally popular for use with many more leisurely pursuits.
Even today it is easy to become pessimistic that attitudes towards women in male-dominated fields such as science and mathematics continue to be shockingly biased, but certainly great strides have been made. We owe this to women like Ada Lovelace, who as well as being far ahead of her time, never let such unfounded beliefs stop her from being a great mathematician and scientist in her own right.
For more information about Ada's contributions and Ada Lovelace Day, see http://findingada.com/