Ada Lovelace Day 2019
Honoring Stephanie Kwolek – Inventor of Kevlar
Ada Lovelace Day, created in 2009 by Suw Charman-Anderson, has the goal of inspiring more women to work in STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and math—by raising the profile of and celebrating women who currently work in these fields. Those behind the day believe that women in these fields do not have enough visibility, and believe the continued interest of women in technology will increase if those who are currently working in the fields are seen.
Penelope Lockwood, a psychologist, did a study which found that there is a need for women to see other women as role models. As there are not many role models for women in STEM, on Ada Lovelace Day people are to write and talk about women who have achieved success in these fields, whose work they admire and are inspired by. This helps role models emerge, who show that it is possible to overcome gender barriers and attain high levels of success.
Since its start, Ada Lovelace Day has become a day of international blogging. The first year, almost 2,000 women signed up to blog about a woman working in STEM. Over 2,000 people blogged the following year. The first Ada Lovelace Day Live event took place then as well, and this event has continued to take place each year.
The reasons for fewer women in STEM are numerous and complex and include things such as societal pressures and subtle misogyny. The hope is as more women in STEM are brought to the forefront because of the day, technology conference organizers will be more likely to reach out to them, and journalists will go to them more often to comment on stories, and for them to be the stories themselves. There is hope that the day will inspire people to fight harder for equality, and that young girls will see that it is okay to love STEM, and that there are opportunities for them in these fields.
The day doesn’t take place on Ada Lovelace’s birthday, but rather, during a time of the year that is not too busy and is not during winter. But why does it carry Ada Lovelace’s namesake, and who was she?
Ada Lovelace was born as Ada Gordon in 1815, the daughter of Lord Byron (George Gordon Byron) and Annabella Milbanke. Her mother pushed her in the direction of science and mathematics, in the hope that she wouldn’t end up like her erratic poet father. Machines were an early fascination for Ada; she enjoyed learning about inventions of the Industrial Revolution, as well as coming up with designs for steam flying machines and boats. She married William King, who became Earl of Lovelace in 1838. Her official title was Lady Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, but she began being known as Ada Lovelace.
Her mentor, Mary Somerville, had introduced her to Charles Babbage in 1833, and they became friends. Babbage had plans for an “Analytical Engine,” which combined his “Difference Engine” with a punch card operating system; it had elements of things now used in today’s computers. Fascinated by this, Lovelace translated an Italian article on it into English, and expanded the article with Babbage’s urging, as he observed she had a deep understanding of the engine. Her piece, titled “Sketch of the Analytical Engine, with Notes from the Translator,” included sketched out programs of the engine, and prescient observations of its use. This work is viewed as early computer programming, and because of this, Lovelace is often referred to as the first computer programmer. She even has a programming language, Ada, named after her.
Although she died a few years later from cancer at the young age of the 36, her work is seen as being inspirational. Alan Turing looked to her work when he began working on modern computing in the 1940s. Lovelace has since continued to be an inspiration for women in technology, making her the perfect namesake for a day about women role models in STEM.
Ada Lovelace Day is being observed today! It has been observed the second Tuesday in October since 2009.