Perhaps, you have heard it said that girls do not excel in core Science subjects, and may even believe it. But over the centuries, many have questioned this false claim; one of them being Augusta Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace.
Let’s consider in more detail.
Ada Is Born
She was born Augusta Ada Byron in London on December 10, 1815, and was the daughter of famous poet, George Gordon Lord Byron and Anne Isabelle Milbanke. Just a month after her birth, her parents separated, and consequently, she was raised by her mother who was highly intelligent and had been well-educated by private Cambridge tutors in Mathematics and the Sciences.
Due to this background, her mother saw to it that Ada received tutoring in Mathematics, Science, Music and French; even though girls of that time did not receive such education, except for few from wealthy families.
When Ada was eight, her father, Lord Byron died. She never did meet him, as he left England when she was only four months old, never to return.
Her Curious Mind is Revealed
At age 12, she began the design of a flying machine and spent hours studying diagrams of new inventions and any industrial journal she could get her hands on. For the design of her steam-powered flying machine, she studied birds to help her understand the mechanics of flight, and experimented with various materials for the wings of her machine – paper, oilsilk, wires and feathers. To this end, she wrote a book titled Flyology, where she illustrated some of her findings.
For her education, she received instruction from William Frend, a social reformer; William King, the family’s doctor; and Mary Somerville, a Scottish astronomer and mathematician, and one of the first women to be admitted into the Royal Astronomical Society.
Ada Meets the Father of Computing – Charles Babbage
In 1833, and at only 17, she was introduced by Mary to Charles Babbage, who at that time was professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, and with whom she would exchange correspondence until her death in 1852. In 1835, she married William King, Earl of Lovelace, with whom she had three children – Byron (1836), Anne Isabella (1837) and Ralph Gordon (1839).
Her Greatest Academic and Professional Achievement
Starting in 1841, Ada worked with Babbage on his project the “Analytical Engine”, which he had started in 1834. Improving on notes written by the Italian Mathematician, Luigi Federico Menabrea on the machine, she included comments – which consisted the bulk of the paper – and which described with clarity how the device would work.
Her notes were labelled alphabetically from A to G. In note G, she describes how a sequence of steps can be used to solve mathematical problems. This is widely considered to be the first published algorithm ever written for use on a computer, and for this, Ada Lovelace has often been cited as the first computer programmer, though some contest this fact. But because the engine was never completed, her program was never tested.
Ada died on November 27, 1852, aged 36 from what is believed to have been uterine cancer. In commemoration of her contributions, the US Department of Defence in 1980, named the computer language, Ada, after her. Several buildings around the world and activities in computer science are named in her honour. Also, October 13 is commemorated worldwide as Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.
In conclusion, if there’s one thing Ada teaches us all, it is that in contributing to the advancement of humanity, there is no girl or boy, only what you can do. Never forget this vital lesson! Never allow yourself be limited by the opinions of others.