It’s Ada Lovelace Day today which means it is a time to celebrate the achievements of women working in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Now in its eighth year, the annual celebration was founded by journalist and software activist Suw Charman-Anderson.
Who is Ada Lovelace?
Born in 1815, Lovelace grew up to be one of the most famous British mathematicians and writers of all time. Rarely going by her full name, Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, she is widely described as the world’s first computer programmer.
Lovelace was the daughter of infamous poet Lord Byron and the admired intellect Annabella Milbanke.
She studied science and maths at a time when women rarely had access to such subjects.
What did she do?
Lovelace collaborated with mathematician Charles Babbage on his Analytical Engine, which was designed to solve mathematical problems. After working closely with Babbage, she translated into English an article written by military engineer – and future Italian prime minister – Luigi Menabrea about Babbage’s theoretical analytical engine.
Lovelace added to the translation with her own notes about the analytical engine. She wrote of how the machine could be programmed with a code to calculate Bernoulli numbers, which some consider to be the first algorithm to be carried out by a machine and thus the first computer program.
Why should we remember her?
Lovelace inspired, and continues to inspire, many women to consider careers in STEM work as she was able to thrive during a time where it was especially difficult for women.
Although we’ve come a long way since the 1800s, there’s still a lot of work in terms of gender equality.
According to the BBC, Twitter’s goal for 2016 is for 16% of its tech staff and 35% of its overall staff to be female and in figures released this year, Facebook revealed that 17% of its tech staff and 33% of its overall workforce were women.
Many women took to Twitter under the hashtag #AdaLovelaceDay to sing her praises and to inspire others to follow in her footsteps.