Happy Ada Lovelace Day! Without this amazing woman, you wouldn’t be reading this—that’s right, her achievement as the world’s first computer programmer is often credited to Charles Babbage, but, no, she did it. That’s a huge deal, and so our new segment, She Did It, the superpowered team up of Geek Girl Riot and La Femme Collective, are celebrating this special day by telling you everything you need to know about this genius mathematician. Hit play and get inspired!
How are you celebrating Ada Lovelace Day? Want to learn more? Check out awesome comic creator Sydney Padua’s graphic novel on Ada’s origin, and you can also find the transcript of our She Did It clip below!
Computer science – whether you’re an 18 year-old headed off to college, a 62 year-old just starting a new job, or a 5 year-old starting your schooling education, you’re bound to hear about computer science.
This wasn’t always the case – computer science was a thing for the geeks, the nerds, the people who sat behind computer screens and interacted with no one. But push that image out of your head – because we’re here to tell you that’s not what it is, that’s never really what it was, and on top of that. we’re going to tell you a little bit about the first person to ever actually write any computer code.
Ada Lovelace. Full name Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countless of Lovelace, Ada was alive and kicking it computer science style from 1815-1852. She was working with Charles Babbage, a jack of all trades including inventor and mechanical engineer. Babbage had Lovelace on the Analytical Engine, his general purpose computer.
She was asked to translate a piece on the Analytical Engine from an Italian Engineer (women being asked to take notes/transcribe – yawn). However, while she did this, she added in her own notes along the way.
Her notes on the engine include an algorithm that’s purpose was to be carried out by a machine. She was able to see what no one had seen yet before, the ability that an engine “might act upon other things besides number… the Engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.” See what we’re getting at here? First computer code written out, done by Ada Lovelace. Babbage may be the “father of the computer,” but Lovelace is the “mother of computer programming” then. It wasn’t until recently that Lovelace was actually given credit for the work she had done – all recognition went to her male counterpart.
Ada also comes from a family of strong, independent women. Lovelace’s mom was a badass in her own right. A mathematical wiz, Lady Byron, yep that’s right married (only for a little) to Lord Byron, didn’t want Ada following in her father’s poetic, yet oftentimes cruel, footsteps. She took it upon herself to immerse Ada in mathematics, in hopes she would follow in her mother’s footsteps instead. And we just have to say, we’re pretty happy she did.
Let’s end with a frightening statistic, just to make sure you’re still listening. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 73 percent of this field is dominated by men. That leaves a small 27 percent for women, who, according to a study done by GitHub, actually got more work done on GitHub’s site when they hid their genders from their profiles.
Let’s take this a few steps back now. Before women even enter the workforce, they’re still at a disadvantage. Girls make up more than half the group of AP test-takers, according to ComputerScience.Org, however, boys outnumber girls 4 to 1 when it comes to taking the computer science AP exam. We know girls are taking these AP courses, so why aren’t they taking computer science?!
We need to change the message we send to women, young and old, about what it means to work in the tech industry! There is room for success and growth. It isn’t just for men, of course. So ladies, if you’re listening, don’t be afraid of failure in technology industries. Let’s make some noise and make Ada proud!
Big thanks to our sources:
-Feminist Fight Club by Jessica Bennett