Today is Ada Lovelace Day, a day for celebrating women in technology:
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace was born on 10th December 1815, the only child of Lord Byron and his wife, Annabella. Born Augusta Ada Byron, but now known simply as Ada Lovelace, she wrote the world’s first computer programmes for the Analytical Engine, a general-purpose machine that Charles Babbage had invented.
Ada had been taught mathematics from a very young age by her mother and met Babbage in 1833. Ten years later she translated Luigi Menabrea’s memoir on Babbage’s Analytical Engine, appending notes that included a method for calculating Bernoulli numbers with the machine – the first computer programme. The calculations were never carried out, as the machine was never built. She also wrote the very first description of a computer and of software.
Understanding that computers could do a lot more than just crunch numbers, Ada suggested that the Analytical Engine “might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.” She never had the chance to fully explore the possibilities of either Babbage’s inventions or her own understanding of computing. She died, aged only 36, on 27th November 1852, of cancer and bloodletting by her physicians.
Sometimes it’s hard being of the female persuasion in tech-oriented fields, but I’ve found the least gender-bias in the maker community. There may be fewer ladies, but it doesn’t feel male-dominated at all and I’m happy about that! Here are some of my favorite lady-makers from around these parts:
Limor has her own DIY electronics kits business and it’s doing really well. She’s talented at electronics design and fabrication, and I’ve seen her out-geek even the L337357 H4x0rs. Popular projects include the TV-B-Gone Kit, WaveBubble RF jammer, and MintyBoost battery pack.
Lenore Edman – Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories
Lenore effortlessly flows between foods, crafts, and electronics on the EMSL site she shares with her son and husband, remaining one of the forerunners of the American maker movement. Popular projects include the Peggy LED Display, Edible Googly Eyes, and CandyFab.
Leah Buechley – Creator of the LilyPad Arduino
Leah is a computer scientist, crafter, and a new professor at the MIT Media Lab, where she directs the High-Low Tech Group. She created the LilyPad Arduino, the iconic sewable flower-shaped version of the popular microcontroller. She has hosted countless workshops with youngsters aiming to help get girls interested in engineering and electronics. Popular projects (besides the LilyPad) include the Electric Tank Top, Turn Signal Bike Jacket, and E-Sewing Kit.
Please share with us your stories of women in technology in the comments!