POWERING CHANGE: 
WOMEN IN INNOVATION & CREATIVITY

Ada lovelace (b. 1815), Computer language, 1842

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Born more than two centuries ago, British mathematician Ada Lovelace was a pioneer of computing science.

The only child of the short-lived marriage between poet Lord Byron and mathematics-loving Annabella Milbanke, she was privately educated as there were no places for girls in universities at the time.

Her mother insisted on a strict regimen of private tutors who educated Ada in science, logic and mathematics – in itself, an unusual education for a woman.

In 1833, Ada’s mentor – the Scottish science writer Mary Sommerville – introduced her to Charles Babbage, a Cambridge University mathematics professor. Babbage would become famous for his Analytical Engine, a device that could perform any arithmetical calculation using punched cards with a memory unit.

In 1842, Ada published a translation of the Analytical Engine by Italian engineer Luigi Menabrea – and added extensive notes of her own. The notes speculated that the Engine “might act upon other things besides number”. The idea of a machine that could manipulate symbols and create music ultimately inspired Alan Turing’s work on the first modern computers in the 1940s.

Ada’s visionary approach was cut short when she died at just 36. Sometimes described as “the mother of modern computing”, her passion and vision for technology have made her a powerful symbol for modern women in technology.

Our Chief Technology Officer, Phil Fearnley, explains why Ada Lovelace is his inspirational woman innovator.

 


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