International Girls in ICT Day- Ada Lovelace
International Girls in ICT Day aims to create a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to consider careers in the growing field of ICTs, enabling both girls and technology companies to reap the benefits of greater female participation in the ICT sector.
This year International Girls in ICT Day will be observed on Thursday 25th April 2019? and in the run up to that date, each week we invite you to learn more about five of the most influential women in the history of the field.
What better place to start than with one of the pioneers of the technology of what we all rely on today; the computer. Many may know of Charles Babbage and his work on his mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine, but right at the heart of the project was the mathematician and writer Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, better known as Ada Lovelace.
Lovelace, born in London on December 10, 1815, was the unwanted daughter of English poet Lord Byron, who sent his wife and daughter away just five weeks after she was born and barely laid eyes on her before his death when Ava was eight years old. Ada’s mother insisted she was tutored in mathematics and science, subjects not usually reserved for women.
At 17 she met mathematician and inventor Charles Babbage, who served as her mentor and as a result, she was accepted to study Advanced Mathematics at University of London and was one of the few people to observe his Difference Engine, which was meant to perform mathematical calculations, before its completion.
Proficient in many languages, Ada was asked to translate an article by an Italian engineer on Babbage's analytical engine. She translated the original text from French into English, as well as added her own thoughts and ideas on the machine. Her notes ended up being three times longer than the original article and were later published in an English science journal under her initials "A.A.L".
Ada described how codes could be created for the device to handle letters and symbols along with numbers. She also theorized a method for the engine to repeat a series of instructions, a process known as looping that computer programs use today, as well as offering up other forward-thinking concepts.
Unfortunately her health was a constant issue throughout her life including a bout in Cholera in 1837 and lingering problems with asthma and her digestive system. Doctors prescribed her painkillers such as laudanum and opium, resulting in changes to her personality, mood swings and hallucinations. Ada died from uterine cancer in London on November 27, 1852 and was buried next to her father, at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Nottingham.
Ada Lovelace's contributions to the field of computer science were not discovered until the 1950s and since then, she has received many posthumous honours for her work. As a result, Ada is often considered to be the first “computer programmer”.
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