Today (Tuesday 9th October) is Ada Lovelace Day! In addition to our Thought For The Week this week, let’s have a look at who Ada Lovelace was and why we should celebrate her life.
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, was born in London in 1815. Her dad was a famous poet named Lord Byron. Ada was brought up by her grandmother, but her mum wrote her lots of letters to let her know she was thinking of her.
Ada’s mum encouraged her to devote herself to mathematics and logic, as she wanted her to be very different to her dad.
Impressively, as a child, Ada showed exceptional gift of imagination and penned a book, Flyology, describing how to fly.
When Ada was a teenager, her exceptional gifts for maths led her to develop a close working relationship with a mathematician named Charles Babbage, who is known as “the father of computers”.
Ada is known as the first ever computer programmer for designing an early model for a computer more than a century before computers were even invented! She did this by working on Babbage’s design for something called the analytical engine.
Since the analytical engine was never built, her first “computer program” was never tested properly. However, her work was seen as the first computer algorithm. A computer algorithm is a set of rules that helps a computer to solve problems, and so makes a computer work as we know it (that’s how I’m writing this blog post right now).
Ada’s contributions to computer science were not discovered until the 1950s; since then, scientists, mathematicians, film-makers and lots of others have realised how important and clever Ada’s work was. In fact, in 1980, the U.S.A.’s Department of Defence even named a newly developed computer language “Ada,” after Lovelace. Also, in celebration of Ada, since November 2015, all new British passports have an illustration of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage on pages 46 and 47!
Since 2009 her life has been celebrated through an annual event on the second Tuesday of October to raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and to create new role models for girls and women in these fields.
Across the world more than 100 events are taking place, with at least one on every continent.