A Woman's Contribution to ManKind Through Technology
Who was Ada Lovelace?
As a child, Ada wanted to learn more about science and math. This was in part due to her mother who kept her away from the Arts and Poetry out of fear of inherited wildness from her father (who she never met). Ada’s father was considered to be a mad, dangerous nutcase, and poet in London in 1820.
What you should know about Ada Lovelace
Although Ada did not inherit her father's mad poetic philosophy, she did inherit his complex thinking. By the age of 13 she had designed a flying machine with wings, I’d like to remind you that it was 1828 flying was not suppose to be in the mind of a child let alone a female child during this time.
Ada’s mother Anna Isabelle Milbank promoted such creativity. Ada wanted to give something back to humanity to repay her father's dishonor to society. Although it is still unknown if Ada set out to accomplish such a task in her works; a letter to her mother explained as much.
Ada was 17 years old when she met Charles Babbage, and she started corresponding with him on the topics of mathematics and logic. Ada found a life long friend in Mr. Babbage, who was a professor of mathematics at Cambridge. Charles was also known as an inventor of different engines and the elaborate calculating machine.
At the age of 19, Ada married William King, ten years her senior-and had three children. William King inherited his noble title in 1838 and the family fortune they then became Earl and Countess of Lovelace. Lady Byron, Ada’s mother, directed much of the family fortunes, due to her overbearing nature was not opposed by Earl William.
**Ada’s contributions to science were resurrected many years later after her death in 1852, in many biographies and the form of a book by Betty A. Toole, Enchantress of Numbers in 1992. Ada then died of cancer at the age of 37.**
Noblewomen in intellectual pursuits
Women participating in noble intellectual pursuits were not encouraged, nor was there a way for women to quickly pursue career opportunities during these times. Women did not do many careers searching the way they do today; there were other obligations for women of this time to uphold.
Ada was enlisted by Babbage to translate notes of the calculating machine. Ada worked for nine months to complete them. Understanding the plans and purpose of the device, Ada’s notes expressed degrees of function and complexity that were not anticipated by Babbage. Ada implied that such a machine could generate computing power beyond human comprehension and generate complex musical symphonies. These developments were not considered to be part of reality during this time. Yet alone fathomable by women.
During the translation of Babbage’s paper, Ada found mistakes and corrected them simply because she understood the purpose of the machine. When the corrections were returned to Babbage, he accepted them and published his paper which included Ada’s notes. Although Ada never received credit for her contributions to his work, Ada did participate in facilitating the publication along with the first computer.
Ada Lovelace was a remarkable woman of her time and remains so today. She did what other women were not allowed to do; she approached a male-dominated world, knowing that she would face trials and tribulations simply because she was a woman. Today’s male-dominated technology world has only taken small steps in making women more comfortable.
Today's educators and parents of girls can take steps in empowering girls to become engineers of the future.
What steps can be taken to make technology, math, and science more attractive to girls? This process needs to take place long before girls talk about universities and career options.**
- Parents and educators can debunk the myths of gender stereotypes.
- Parents can be more supportive of girls learning advanced math skills at an early age.
- Parents can make learning math more exciting and intellectual at an early age.
An excellent book replicating the story of Lovelace and Babbage which may make the subject more attractive to girls is a graphic novel by Sydney Padua The trilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage The mostly true story of the First Computer. This book provides a historical perspective along with a modern-day twist.