Today is Ada Lovelace‘s birthday. Widely considered to be the first computer programmer, Ada was born in 1815 to Annabelle Milbanke and Lord Byron (the poet), and was raised by her mother with a strong background in science and math. Passionate about the sciences, she developed a close friendship with Charles Babbage, inventor of the Difference Engine. Originally working to translate an article Babbage wrote about the Engine, she ultimately expanded the article to three times its original length, including in that expansion what is now recognized as the first computer program.
Although Ada’s life was short (she died at only 36 from uterine cancer), her impact is great. I wish that I could have interviewed her – in some ways (although not the scandalous ones) she reminds me of my grandmother. My grandmother was one of the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), and when the war ended, she and my grandfather traveled to New Mexico to attend college. She got her degree in Home Economics, thinking she would teach Home Ec., but got her Master’s degree in math because she loved it. She ended up teaching high school math for her entire career, and had an amazing ability to help even the most mathematically-challenge students understand.
My grandmother rode a motorcycle and was a better pilot than my grandfather, a fact that he was very proud of. She traveled extensively and did a whitewater rafting trip down the Grand Canyon in her late 60s. She loved babies and ballroom dancing, and was perhaps the most patient person I’ve ever met. My favorite saying from my grandmother is, “Everyone brings joy to a room – some when they enter, some when they leave.” Much like Ada, she was an unconventional woman for her time, but she happily followed her passion.
Ada Lovelace continues to be an inspiration for people, especially women, to this day. Ada Lovelace Day is a yearly celebration of women in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields.
Happy birthday, Ada!