In history

12th October is Ada Lovelace Day and is a time for recognising the amazing contributions that women have made to science throughout the years.  It is an international celebration of achievements made by female scientists and aims to increase the profile of women working in these careers, but who was Ada Lovelace and why is she so important to the world of science?

The woman who would become known as Ada Lovelace was actually born Ada Gordon in 1815, the only child of George Gordon, better known as the poet Lord Byron and his wife, Annabella Milbanke. While her father was famous for his poetry, her mother was more into science and mathematics and raised Ada in a household that was full of logic rather than that poetic notions. Thanks to this, Ada developed a fascination with machines and even in childhood was creating her own steam powered flying machines!

At the age of 19, Ada married William King, an aristocrat that went on to become the Earl of Lovelace and so she became forever known as Ada Lovelace.

Her love of science and mathematics would continue into adulthood and in 1833, she met Charles Babbage, who you may know as being the inventor of the modern computer. He was already fairly well known at the time for his visionary approach to maths and for his various inventions. The pair got on famously and became lifelong friends and Ada became integral to Babbage’s plans for his Analytical Engine, an upgrade to his previously designed Difference Engine. Though it was never built, it had all the essential elements that make up computers today. He might have come up with the machine’s structure, but it was Ada that designed programs for it, with programs that could theoretically allow the machine to manipulate symbols, create music and more. In fact, hers were the first such programs to be published which is why so many people refer to her as the world’s first computer programmer.

Sadly, Ada would die young, at the age of only 36, following a diagnosis of cancer, meaning she never got to see her creations come to life. It wouldn’t be until the 1940s when Alan Turing used her notes in his work on the first of what would become modern computers.

So, while you might not think it, the smart phone in your hands and the screen you’re reading this on has a heritage that links back to Lord Byron! This October, why not take part in some of the events held all over the nation for Ada Lovelace Day and celebrate her amazing contributions to modern science!

There are a number of places that you can visit to find out more about Ada Lovelace and her work.

There is a Blue Plaque dedicated to her in St James’ Square in London near her former home.  The Lovelace family had three homes, Ockham Park in Surrey, a Scottish Estate on Loch Torridon in Ross-shire, Horsley Towers in Surrey and a home in London.

She is buried next to her father, Lord Byron, at the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire.

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