Ada Lovelace: The Enchantress of Numbers
By: Sarah Jimenez
Women’s History Month is an annual celebration highlighting the impact that women have left and continue to leave on the world. Starting March 1 and ending March 31, this celebratory month aims to put the spotlight on women whose stories have been buried under the sands of time and the footprints of their male counterparts. This month also helps bring light to the oppression and atrocities that women continue to face today, especially women of color and women in developing countries. One woman who history has forgotten wrote some of the most influential work known to mankind. The computer science field is a mostly male-dominated field with a long history of excluding and discouraging women from participating in it. However, modern coders owe a huge thank you to the woman who changed the world of technology, affecting every one of us today.
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace was born December 10, 1815 in London, England to two noble Lords. As a teenager, Lovelace was a very active member of her community and dazzled London high society, galas, and balls she attended with her beauty and wit. She married William King-Noel, the first Earl of Lovelace, making her a countess. As an upper-class noblewoman, she received a respectable education, and showed interest in writing and mathematics. The promising mathematician became acquaintanced with Charles Babbage in 1833, through her friend and tutor, Mary Somerville. She had been involved in mathematical projects before, including a project that aimed to map how brain activity worked. Babbage introduced her to the prototype of his in-progress invention, the differential engine. This was essentially a calculator, which is considered a type of computer. She became fascinated with this prototype and started writing algorithms for the would-be computer program. These complex algorithms were the very first computer codes ever recorded in history! Lovelace was also one of the first people to suggest that computers were capable of more than simple calculations, and obviously, she was right. Without Ada Lovelace’s work, people wouldn’t be able to read this article, go on their phones, play video games, or even use a calculator. Babbage, fascinated with her work, rightly took to calling her “The Enchantress of Numbers.” After a life immersed in numbers and the mystery of theoretical programming, Ada Lovelace died of uterine cancer on November 27, 1852, at only 37 years old. Unfortunately, after her death, most of the credit for computer programming went towards Babbage and his co-inventors. The Ada Lovelace Institute, founded in 2018 continues her legacy by continuing research on artificial intelligence and coding programs, as well as ensuring that technology remains ethical, accessible, and equitable. Although Lovelace didn’t live long, her impact on humanity still stands apparent and her spirit lives on in tenacious young women thirsty for knowledge and curious about the world they live in.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month, it is more important than ever to provide women with the tools and opportunities that they need to achieve their aspirations. Women remain a minority in many fields, especially those pertaining to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Black and Latina women especially are severely underrepresented in these fields. Organizations like Women in Stem, Latinas in Medicine, and Girls Who Code help women encounter resources like scholarships, clubs, information, and groups that can give them an edge in finding career opportunities. The Raider Review wishes a happy Women’s History Month to all of our readers!