October 2013

Ada Lovelace Day Celebrates Women in Math and Science

Ada LovelaceAda Lovelace

Ada Lovelace
Because of her great imagination and skill in mathematics, Ada Lovelace was known as the “Enchantress of Numbers.”

More than 150 years ago, mathematician Ada Lovelace saw the future of how people would use computers. In her work, she predicted that people would one day rely on computers to perform all sorts of tasks.

In 2009, Ada Lovelace Day was created to honor her life and work. This year, on October 15, people celebrated the day by calling attention to women’s contributions in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). They also devoted time to encouraging women who are seeking careers in those fields.

Ada Lovelace was born Augusta Ada Byron in London, England, in 1815. She was the daughter of the famous poet Lord Byron. However, Ada’s mother, Lady Annabella Byron, insisted that Ada dedicate her time to studying math and science, not poetry. Yet, Ada still shared her father’s poetic imagination.

When Ada Byron was only 17 years old, she began working with fellow mathematician Charles Babbage. Babbage is known as the “father of the computer.” Together, they worked on Babbage’s plans for his Analytical Engine, a machine that would solve complicated mathematical problems.

In 1842, Babbage encouraged Ada, now the Countess of Lovelace, to write down her thoughts and ideas about the Analytical Engine. Her notes include what many believe to be the very first computer program. She also described computer software and what we know today as apps.

Ada Lovelace saw possibilities in Babbage’s work that he did not see. She predicted that machines like the Analytical Engine would one day be used to compose music, create graphics, and perform many other tasks. Lovelace’s work was not fully appreciated until the 1940s when the first modern computers were developed.

This year, universities and other groups in Europe and North and South America hosted events to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day. People around the world were encouraged to celebrate the day in their own way. Many took the time to blog or write about important women in the fields of math and science. People also used the day to learn more about Ada Lovelace or teach others about her legacy.

Image credit: ©SSPL/Getty Images

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Question 1
What did Ada Lovelace see the future of?

Question 2
What does Ada Lovelace Day celebrate?

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