March 24, 2010

It’s Ada Lovelace Day — Celebrating “The Enchantress of Numbers”

by Heather Falconer

During the Victorian Era, women were considered intellectually inferior to men in all areas except child-rearing and matters of the home. Women interested in science, mathematics, engineering and the like were quickly dismissed. Still, a few managed to educate themselves and have significant impacts on these disciplines as we know them today. Augusta Ada King, Countess of Loveless (1815-1852) was one such woman.

Often regarded as the world’s first computer programmer, this daughter of Lord Byron and Anne Isabella Milbanke had a keen interest in mathematics from an early age. When she was twenty-seven, she took it upon herself to translate an article by Luigi Menabrea from Italian to English on Charles Babbage’s proposed Analytical Engine. As she worked, Lovelace added ideas of her own — longer than the original article itself — including an algorithm encoded for processing by Babbage’s machine. The method of calculating a sequence of Bernoulli numbers would have allowed the Analytical Engine to operate properly, had the machine ever been built. This thorough document remains the world’s first computer program.

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, and we here at Visionlearning would like to tip our hats to all those individuals who, for one reason or another, faced obstacles in pursuing their love of STEM disciplines, but persevered regardless.

Heather Falconer

Written by

Heather Falconer holds undergraduate degrees in Graphic Arts and Environmental Science, as well as an MFA in Writing and an MLitt in Literature. She is currently completing her PhD in Rhetoric and Composition, with an emphasis on rhetoric in/and/of science. Heather has worked internationally in academic publishing as both an author and editor, and has taught a wide range of topics – from research writing to marine biology – in the public and private educational sectors.