TORONTO – Ada Lovelace is remembered as many things, including the “enchantress of numbers” and “the first lady of computers.” Possibly her most important distinction is that of world’s first computer programmer.
Ada Lovelace day was started by U.K.-based journalist and public speaker Suw Charman-Anderson to help raise awareness about women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by encouraging people to discuss the women in these fields they admire.
According to the “Finding Ada” website, the inspiration for the day came from a study by psychologist Penelope Lockwood examining the effect of female role models on women.
Events will be held across 10 countries in honour of the day, including an event in Kitchener, Ont. which will mark the first Ada Lovelace day for Ontario’s Waterloo region, known for its deep-seeded tech roots.
The event, presented by Hackademy.ca, will kick off at 6 p.m. at the Victoria Park Pavilion in Kitchener.
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Lovelace, who was born in 1815, worked with Charles Babbage, the man who laid out plans for the Difference Engine and Analytical Engine, which were designed to store numbers and data, becoming the prototype for the modern computer.
In handwritten notes, Lovelace wrote step-by-step instructions for how the Analytical Engine could calculate a sequence of Bernoulli numbers, a sequence of rational numbers with connections to number theory.
With the help of Babbage, this created the world’s first published algorithm.
Lovelace believed that the Analytical Engine was more than just a calculator and argued that the device could do more than math.
“The Analytical Engine weaves algebraic patterns just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves,” wrote Lovelace in 1843.
“Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.”
A team at Brown University has put together a “edit-a-thon” on Ada Lovelace Day, aimed at increasing the number of women involved in editing Wikipedia and increasing the representation of women in STEM careers on the user-populated site.
Wikimedia, the foundation that runs Wikipedia, revealed in April 2012 that nine out of ten of Wikipedia “editors” identify themselves as males.
“What we lose by not having a full panoply of information about women scientists is that we continue to perpetuate this idea that this historian had that women haven’t done science at the same level as men or are somehow deficient in this area,” said Anne Fausto-Sterling. one of the organizers of the event and a professor of biology at Brown.