Female Unicorns Series: Ada Lovelace

I have picked this special lady to be my first “Female Unicorn” as she is known to be the first programmer.

I myself have been studying computer science since I finished high school. When I first told everyone I wanted to study this field, a lot of people told me that this was a “boy’s world”. I was confused, why is it called a boy’s world?!

As it turned out there were really not many girls, but weirdly enough the best students were the girls. I was proud, I am still proud, of this fact!

When I graduated, I started working as a programmer. Out of the 11 people in my team, there were only two women! One, a senior of 10 years, and myself. Wow! Is it just in my country or is IT really a men dominated world?! Don’t get me wrong, I respect all the men in my team too, it was at least a solid team and we respect one another despite of our gender. I guess I was lucky as it made me a better programmer and we were all given an equal opportunity.

I would however like to point out that this is not a certain gender industry. IT is exciting, if you love searching for solution, always ready to be challenged by problems then this is probably your world. I love how I’m always on my feet, I love the challenges and when I can overcome the challenge, I feel satisfied. This is why I will always love IT.

As much as I’d like to complain, when an algorithm works, I’d feel like a genius!

This is why I have chosen Ada Lovelace. She is recognized as the first programmer, so let me remind all my lovely ladies, never be afraid to pursue a carreer in a world where people have certain stereotype in it. Do what you want to do, try what you want to try! I am happy that more and more women are taking IT as their carreer, woop!

***

Augusta Ada Gordon was her name. She was born in 1815 in England. Her father, a poet, George Gordon and her mother, who had a fascination towards mathematics, Annabella Milbanke. Only after 5 weeks of giving birth to Ada, Annabella decided to divorce her husband.

She raised Ada as a single parent, with some help from her mother. Annabella introduced Ada to the world of science and mathematics for one main reason, she was afraid Ada would turn into his poet father who did not have the best attitude. It was of course a great idea since Ada loved this world but sometimes she could not help but fill her head with imaginations and metaphors. Later on in Ada’s carreer as a mathematician, she would often incorporate her father’s poetry genes into her work.

At a young age of 19, she married William King who became Earl Lovelace, automatically Ada became Countess Lovelace hence the popular name Ada Lovelace.

Ada had the scientist Mary Sommerville as her tutor. Sommerville introduced Ada to Charless Babbage, a Mathematics Professor. They both became good friends and he thought highly of her, even called her “The Enchantress of Numbers”.

One time Babbage wrote an article on The Analytical Engine in which Ada was intrigued in. She read the piece of Babbage’s work from a summary, written in French, by Menabrea, an Italian mathematician. Ada decided to translate the summary and gave her translation for Babbage to see, he told her to add some notes on it. It is from this idea of adding notes that Ada Lovelace became popular. Her additional notes turned out to be three times more than the original work.

Ada Lovelace

Though Babbage’s work was never realised, his work actually contained the basic things needed for a simple computer and with the help of Ada’s added observations, the idea was even more elevated. Later on she wrote her own article and even suggested Babbage of a plan that this engine could count the Bernoulli numbers – this idea suggested the first ever computer programme. I bet this Bernoulli calculation programme is familiar to any computer science students as you must’ve study it at some point of your programming life, I know I studied it.

Though her life was not smooth, and she died young at the age of 36, her “notes” became the foundation and inspiration of Alan Turing’s work of the modern computer we know today many years after she died.

Isn’t that amazing? Technically speaking, Ada Lovelace is the first programmer! May I also remind you that Ada grew up in an age where education for women was often impossible, nevertheless this did not make her give up her interest. It is no wonder that her passion in this field has made her an inspiration to many women until today, I know she inspires me.

Have you ever heard of Ada Lovelace?

Photo of Ada Lovelace was taken from:
https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ada_Lovelace_portrait.jpg

Sources:
http://www.cs.yale.edu/homes/tap/Files/ada-bio.html
http://findingada.com/about/who-was-ada/

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6 thoughts on “Female Unicorns Series: Ada Lovelace

  1. I’ve never thought of myself as of a female unicorn, but I truly like this term! 🙂 I’m a programmer myself, just recently graduated from uni with a master’s degree. When I told my parents I might choose to study CS, around 6-7 years ago, they said I’d have to prove my value at every step throughout my career, simply because it’s such a male dominated world. And I guess I kinda did, I always was among the best 4% of students and had a scholarship. I’ve worked as a programmer for 2.5 years now, my team actually has quite a lot of females, although most of them are more of an IT support than programmers. I guess I can say ‘my’ company values male and female programmers equally, but it’s true that there are very few female programmers in general – my year at uni had around 180 students, less than 15 of them were girls…

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    • I hear you! Your story sounds just like mine, I guess these days there are more and more female in the industry and I am happy for that but I still think there’s more room for improvement. During my bachelor, there were around 80 of us in total and only 11 were girls 😀 Yey to us female unicorns 😉

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