Tuesday, October 11 is designated as Ada Lovelace Day 2016, and the celebration and remembrance of her contributions to the field of computer science is as relevant as ever.
Ada Lovelace was born in London to the poet Lord Byron and Anne Isabella Byron. However, her parents’ union was an unhappy one, and Lord Byron abandoned the family after a short time. Lovelace was a curious girl, and her mother encouraged an interest in science and mathematics. She also had several tutors in these subjects, among them the famed science writer Mary Somerville, with whom she remained close friends throughout her life.
Somerville eventually introduced Lovelace to polymath Charles Babbage. Lovelace and Babbage became close friends, and invited her to see a prototype of his new invention— the “difference engine”, a mechanical calculator meant to tabulate polynomial functions. However, Babbage abandoned his plans when he became obsessed with a new project, the Analytical Engine. Lovelace was fascinated by the machine, which was the first general purpose computer. As you can imagine, it was a difficult concept to understand, but Lovelace’s notes provided some of the best contemporary explanations. But most importantly, Lovelace’s notes describe what could be thought of as the first algorithm. The machine was never built, but it is believed that her algorithm would have worked if it had been created.
Ada Lovelace Day is meant to celebrate and raise awareness of women in STEM Fields. Women are hugely underrepresented in these professional areas, and those that have made a career in the supposedly high paying fields are on average still earning less than their male counterparts.
Diversity ultimately impacts a company’s bottom line. It’s been proven that more diverse companies create better products. When only one group of people is in charge of making decisions, they’re only making products that serve those like them. They’re missing out on a huge potential market. And even though many CEOs of tech startups understand this in theory, women are still a rare sight in the tech world.
A better future means a more inclusive future. Happy Ada Lovelace day to you all.