October 11 – Ada Lovelace Day in the U.K.

Second Tuesday in October
Posted October 11, 2016

Today is NOT Ada Lovelace's birthday!

As I wrote years ago, Augusta Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace, was born on December 10.  But celebrating the world's first “computer programmer” – born in 1815, so we are not talking about programming an IBM or an Apple II – is very important in the United Kingdom. And, since December is jammed with Christmas parties and such, for convenience sake Lovelace is celebrated on the second Tuesday of October!

This year, the second Tuesday of October is MY birthday, too, so I eagerly welcome Ada Lovelace Day to my birthday!

Here are some top things you should know about Lovelace:

  • Her father was famed poet Lord Byron. However, her mother left Byron because of his “immoral behaviour” when Ada was just a baby, and Byron died when Ada was just 8 years old.
  • Her mother brought her up with a focus on logic, mathematics, and science.
  • As a teen, Ada Lovelace was fascinated by the machinery being developed (the British Industrial Revolution was in full swing) and designed steam flying machines.
  • In 1833 she was introduced to Charles Babbage; the two worked together to develop a device called the Analytical Engine, which was an early form of a computer.
  • In 1842 Lovelace wrote an article about using machines to compute and to manipulate symbols. She wrote “programs” or lists of instructions that the Analytical Engine could carry out; Babbage did as well, but Lovelace's programs were more extensive and more complete. Also, her programs were the first to be published. That's why she is often called “the first” computer programmer.
  • Ada Lovelace married William, 8th Baron King, and became Lady King. Later, because Ada was a descendant of the Barons Lovelace, her husband was made Earl of Lovelace, and she became Countess of Lovelace. The couple had three children.
  • She died at age 36, from cancer. Even though she never knew her father, she requested that she be buried next to him.
  • Modern computer hero Alan Turing was inspired by Ada Lovelace's notes!

Celebrating Ada Lovelace Day is an opportunity to shine a light on all the women in science, mathematics, and tech fields. It's an opportunity to talk about how to open up these fields to more girls and women, and it's an opportunity to remind ourselves of the positive steps we can take to make the world a fairer place!

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