Ada Lovelace: Intellectual. Rockstar mathematician. Visionary. Today we celebrate the accomplishments of the woman widely considered to be the first computer programmer, the so-called “Enchantress of Numbers” who glimpsed the potential applications of computers as extending far beyond clunky calculating machines into the realms of music, graphics and other types of information. Moreover, Ada Lovelace’s insight and imagination directly inspired the work of mathematicians and computer scientists like Alan Turing, who referenced her notes in proposing the Turing Test, an essential development in the philosophy of artificial intelligence.
The only child of the brief, unhappy union between the Romantic poet Lord Byron and gifted mathematician Annabella Milbanke, Lovelace led a fascinating life, cultivating a coterie of brilliant acquaintances ranging from scientists and mathematicians such as physicist Michael Faraday and noted researcher Mary Somerville to literary superstar Charles Dickens. Throughout her life she worked closely with Charles Babbage, the inventor of the analytical engine—a direct precursor to the modern computer—and through this association established her enduring reputation as a brilliant mathematician far ahead of her time, who both articulated the machine’s potential and anticipated future developments, many of which went unrealized until the 20th century.
In honor of Ada Lovelace, March 24th has become a day of global acknowledgment of the contributions women have made and continue to make in the fields of science and technology, a time to appreciate the heroes and role models who continue to blaze trails and push the boundaries of imagination. Once again, blogger/activist Suw Charman-Anderson has organized the second annual ALD pledge drive to encourage people to blog about their own tech heroines, and they still need pledges to meet this year’s ambitious target of 3072, so please go check out the official site and the #ALD10 Twitter stream and blog away! And for those of you who just can’t get enough Ada-related awesomeness, I highly recommend the following links:
For a truly compelling look into the life of Lady Lovelace, check out “Who Was The Enchantress of Numbers?” podcast at the fabulous Stuff You Missed in History Class blog (free on iTunes, originally posted 11/11/09)
Image by flickr user foxtongue, CC licensed for commercial use.
Bridget McGovern is a lit nerd, a film geek, and a complete pop culture junkie. She enjoys David Bowie, roller coasters, and celebrating Ada Lovelace Day more than anyone probably should.