Ada Lovelace Day on October 13 highlights the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Launched in 2009 as a celebration of women in science, the event promotes programs that encourage girls and women to pursue careers in STEM.
A daughter of Lord Byron, Ada Lovelace is widely known as the first person to recognize the potential of early computers and published what is known as an algorithm. Before most others, Lovelace recognized that computers could do more than simple number-crunching, opening the door to complex functions and ushering in the modern era of computing.
History of ADA Lovelace Day
Born in 1815, Ada Lovelace was the daughter of famed Romantic poet Lord Byron. Thanks to her privileged upbringing, Ada had the opportunity to study math and science, subjects not open to most girls and women of the era. The bright young lady was mentored by Charles Babbage, the inventor of the mechanical calculator. Her work with Babbage led to the 1843 publication of what is now recognized as the first algorithm.
Although she never saw it tested during her lifetime, Lovelace’s commentary and notes on her translation of Babbage’s description of his Analytical Engine is now widely considered the first algorithm. More than a hundred years before computers started to become mainstream, her theories proposed that computers could do so much more than basic arithmetic. Babbage called her the “Enchantress of Numbers,” a fitting name for the world’s first computer programmer. Sadly, Lovelace died of what was most likely uterine cancer at the young age of 36.
In 2009, technologist Suw Charman-Anderson founded Ada Lovelace Day to draw attention to this pioneering woman scientist and promote the achievements of women in STEM careers. Although women earn more than half of undergraduate college degrees in the United States, less than a quarter of them are in STEM fields.
Advocates of STEM education argue that studying sciences and math gives women a step up in career options and benefits science by including different perspectives. Ada Lovelace Day aims to promote STEM education and honor the teachers, researchers, technicians, advocates, and others who champion the importance of science and math.
ADA Lovelace Day timeline
The U.S. Department of Defense names a new computer language Ada to honor Lovelace. The reference manual for the language is numbered with her birth year, 1815.
Ada Lovelace dies of uterine cancer at the young age of 36. It’s only a century later that the innovative ideas in her work are recognized.
Lovelace publishes her translation and appended notes of Babbage’s lecture about his Analytical Engine, a proposed general-purpose computer. Her added notes are now recognized as the first algorithm.
How to Celebrate Ada Lovelace Day
Attend an Ada Lovelace Day event
Look up Ada Lovelace Day events near you to find a pub quiz, lecture, edit-a-thon, coding workshop, or other activity that promotes the sciences and helps girls and women find their place in STEM fields.
Brush up on the history of women in science
Once you start looking, you’ll find accomplished women in all parts of science, math, and technology. From Marie Curie to Ada Lovelace to Chien-Shiung Wu, women have made significant contributions in mathematics, physics, and other sciences, overcoming obstacles to pursue their dreams.
Learn to code
Have you ever tried writing your own computer code? On Ada Lovelace Day, find a simple tutorial or attend a workshop to learn the basic skills you need to build a website, make your own phone apps, or automate tasks.
Interesting Facts About Early Computers
The first mouse was wooden
The first computer mouse, invented by Doug Engelbart in 1964, was made of wood.
The first gigabyte drive cost $40k
In 1980, the first gigabyte drive sold for $40,000 and weighed 550 pounds.
The computer’s precursor was a loom
In 1801, Joseph Marie Jacquard invented a system of wooden punch cards that “programmed” fabric patterns into a loom.
Memory has gotten way bigger
Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine had a memory of 1,000 40-digit numbers. Today, it’s not uncommon to carry a terabyte’s worth of data — something like 75 million printed pages — on a pocket-sized flash drive.
Why We Love Ada Lovelace Day
It promotes STEM career for girls
Women are still underrepresented in STEM fields. Ada Lovelace Day helps raise the profile of women scientists and encourage more girls to pursue STEM careers.
Computers revolutionized our lives
It’s undeniable that computers have changed practically everything about the way we live and interact.
ADA Lovelace Day dates
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