Friday, January 15, 2010

Finding Ada

Check out this site about Ada Lovelace, the world's first programmer (who happened to be a woman!). It's called Finding Ada: Bringing women in technology to the fore.

Who was Ada?
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace was born on 10th December 1815, the only child of Lord Byron and his wife, Annabella. Born Augusta Ada Byron, but now known simply as Ada Lovelace, she wrote the world’s first computer programmes for the Analytical Engine, a general-purpose machine that Charles Babbage had invented.

Ada Lovelace, 1838

Ada had been taught mathematics from a very young age by her mother and met Babbage in 1833. Ten years later she translated Luigi Menabrea’s memoir on Babbage’s Analytical Engine, appending notes that included a method for calculating Bernoulli numbers with the machine – the first computer programme. The calculations were never carried out, as the machine was never built. She also wrote the very first description of a computer and of software.

Understanding that computers could do a lot more than just crunch numbers, Ada suggested that the Analytical Engine “might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.” She never had the chance to fully explore the possibilities of either Babbage’s inventions or her own understanding of computing. She died, aged only 36, on 27th November 1852, of cancer and bloodletting by her physicians.

Last year, on Ada Lovelace Day March 24th, a flurry of blog posts were written about peoples' female heroes in computing. Some were about big names like Grace Hopper or Ada herself, and others were about colleagues who inspired, probably without even knowing it. I wrote about my fellow CU-WISE teammates.

To keep up to date on this year's Ada Lovelace Day, you can subscribe to the blog, join the Facebook group, or follow on Twitter.