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Wednesday's Women in STEM: Ada Lovelace

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, was an English mathematician and engineer. She is known as the world’s first computer programmer. She was the first person to recognize that the analytical engine had capabilities beyond the obvious.

As a child, Lovelace fell ill frequently. One of her most impactful illnesses was measles. This left her paralyzed in 1829. Two years later, she was able to walk with crutches. Despite her illnesses, she had a keen interest in mathematics and engineering. She excelled in these.

Lovelace’s tutor was Mary Somerville, a mathematician, who was close with Charles Babbage. Babbage was a renowned mathematician and engineer. Babbage and Lovelace worked together. In 1940, Babbage was invited to give a seminar at the University of Turin about the Analytical Engine. Luigi Menabrea, an Italian engineer, transcribed Babbage's lecture into French. This transcript was published in the Bibliothèque Universelle de Genève. Babbage's friend Charles Wheatstone commissioned Ada Lovelace to translate Menabrea's paper into English. She combined the paper with her notes, which were added to the translation. Ada spent a while doing this and had help from Babbage. Ada’s notes were labeled from A to G. G had an algorithm for the Analytical Engine to compute Bernoulli numbers. This became known as the world’s first computer program. However, the engine was never completed so her program was never tested.

Besides, computer programming, Ada had several interests. She was particularly interested in the study of the brain. She wanted to create a mathematical model for how the brain gives rise to thoughts and nerves to feelings. She described it as "a calculus of the nervous system."

Augusta Ada Lovelace is honored even today. The computer language Ada, created on behalf of the United States Department of Defense, was named after Augusta Ada Lovelace. 1981, the Association for Women in Computing inaugurated its Ada Lovelace Award. Ever since 1998, the British Computer Society has awarded the Lovelace Medal, and since 2008, they have initiated an annual competition for women students. There is also an Ada Lovelace Day. since 2009, this day has been on the second Tuesday of October. Its goal is to "... raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths," and to "create new role models for girls and women" in these fields.

BY: Nami Mahajan


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