Ada Lovelace Day 2022: Celebrating the first computer programmer and the achievements of women in STEM

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Ada Lovelace Day is celebrated annually on the second Tuesday of October. This day is considered an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

It was launched in 2009 with a simple pledge on the UK Civil Action website which received support from nearly 2,000 people on March 24. The aim of celebrating this day is to raise the profile of women in STEM, which in turn creates new role models that are likely to encourage more girls to pursue careers in STEM and support women who are already working. in the areas.

Who was Ada Lovelace?

Born on December 10, 1815, Ada Gordon or more commonly known as Ada Lovelace was the child of poet Lord Byron (George Gordon) and mathematics enthusiast Annabella Milbanke. According to the book written by author Sydney Padua, titled “The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage”, his mother feared she would inherit her father’s unstable “poetic” temperament. This caused her mother to raise Ada on a strict diet of science, logic, and math.

Lovelace herself was fascinated with machines from childhood and often designed several steam-powered boats and flying machines, including various new inventions during the Industrial Revolution. When she was 19, she was married to an aristocrat, William King. In 1838, when he was made Earl of Lovelace, she became Lady Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, according to extracts from the book.

In 1833, Ada’s mentor, scientist and polymath Mary Sommerville introduced her to Charles Babbage, a professor of mathematics. By then he had already drawn attention to his visionary and often unfinished projects for clockwork calculating machines. Babbage and Lovelace became lifelong friends.

“The Enchantress of Numbers”

According to Padua’s book, Babbage described Ada as “that Enchantress who cast her magical spell around the most abstract of Sciences and seized it with a force which few male intellects could have exerted upon her”, or simply “The Enchantress of Numbers”. .

Lovelace was deeply intrigued by Babbage’s plans for the hugely complicated device he called the “Analytical Engine”, but although it was never built, the design featured all the essentials of a modern computer. In 1843 Lovelace published what is now called the computer program for generating Bernoulli numbers.

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A year before publication, Babbage was giving a lecture on the Analytical Engine when an Italian engineer, Luigi Menabrea, in the audience took notes and Lovelace was asked to translate them from French into English. The book titled Ada Lovelace: Victorian computing visionary, written by technologist Suw Charman-Anderson, details how Lovelace quietly corrected errors in Menabrea’s notes and added her knowledge to her notes. Babbage asked him to develop them.

She tripled the length of the original paper, and in these notes Lovelace describes several early computer programs, including one for calculating Bernoulli numbers, on Babbage’s suggestions. Bernoulli numbers were a complex number system first described by Swiss mathematician Jakob Bernoulli. According to the book, any complex series of the number system could have been chosen, the aim was to show that they could be independently computed by the machine based on its first principles.

While Babbage and his assistants had sketched programs for his engine, it was this elaborate and complete version of Lovelace that was released and became important for modern computers. Hence, she is now called “the first female computer programmer.”

However, it didn’t stop there, Lovelace was also the first to foresee the creative implications of the Analytical Engine and explained that it could do much more than just calculate numbers. She believed that with the right programming and input, the engine could create music and art, but her unparalleled vision went unrecognized by her peers for nearly a century.

Lovelace died of cancer at the age of 36, a few years after the publication of “Sketch of the Analytical Engine, with Notes from the Translator”. The engine was never built, but Ada’s notes became one of the critical documents that inspired Alan Turing’s 1940s work on early modern computers. It is her passion and vision for technology that has made her a powerful symbol for modern women in technology.

How is this day celebrated?

Founded by technologist Suw Charman-Anderson, this day is celebrated in many countries around the world. In London, he presented the hit “Ada Lovelace Day Live!” a “science cabaret,” as described by the Finding Ada website, where women in STEM talk about their work and research in an informal, theater-like setting. In 2022, like last year, the day will be celebrated online with blogs and posts on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

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The website also talks about the banality of explaining the date chosen to celebrate Ada Lovelace’s day, “The date is arbitrary, chosen with the aim of making the day as convenient as possible for the greatest number of people. .” This included avoiding major holidays and seasons, which is why they didn’t choose Ada’s birthday in December due to Christmas in the UK.

Ada Lovelace Facts

1. Lovelace learned math and science at a time when these subjects were off limits to girls.
2. She hypothesized that the analytics engine has the potential to process more than numbers, but even text, music and images.
3. His notes, “Sketch of the Analytical Engine, with Notes from the Translator” were ahead of their time, it took more than a century to be recognized as the “first computer algorithm”.
4. In 1980, the US Department of Defense gave its name to a computer language for large-scale programming “Ada”.
5. In 2018, she was one of the contenders for the new face of the 50 pound note in the UK.

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