Why do we celebrate Ada Lovelace Day?

12 Oct 2020

Today marks Ada Lovelace Day, which celebrates the incredible achievements of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

It’s a chance to shout out the huge strides women across the world have taken in STEM areas, as well as inspire the next generation of girls and women to enter into STEM careers. By highlighting the successes women have had throughout history, we can provide role models to show young women that these fields of study and career are not closed off to them. 

But where did this day originate from? Who was the inspiration and namesake, Ada Lovelace?

The daughter of celebrated poet Lord Byron, Ada was a British mathematician and writer who is probably best known for her work in early computer programming. During her early twenties, Ada was part of a collective of impressive scientific minds, including Mary Somerville, who is recognised as the first female member of the Royal Astronomical Society, and mathematician Charles Babbage. Babbage is known as ‘the father of computers’ due to his work on the Analytical Engine – the first concept of what we now know as the modern-day computer. 

Ada came across the engine when translating an article on Babbage’s machine by an Italian engineer and as well as the translation, she also added her own notes to the project. This was published as “Sketch of the Analytical Engine, with Notes from the Translator”. These notes turned out to be the first ever computer programme – an algorithm for the engine to carry out. This work eventually inspired UK scientist Alan Turing, who built the first recognised computer. Sadly Ada passed away at the age of 36, just a few years after her work was published. 

Despite her premature death, Ada paved the way for future generations of girls and women who wanted to enter what was (and still remains to some extent) a male-dominated industry. She  is widely recognised as the first computer programmer, which is doubly impressive when you consider that she lived in a time when most women were denied even a basic education! She defied social conventions and expectations of women at the time by dedicating her time and energy to furthering the progress of science. She was a trailblazer who was way ahead of her time, advancing the progress of computing and computer programming by leaps and bounds. Ada is still an inspiration for women across the world today, and that is why she will continue to be celebrated on Ada Lovelace Day!