Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

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If you're a girl who likes programming, who are your role models? Too few and far between, says UK-based freelance software consultant and tech blogger, Suw Charman-Anderson. Which is why she's named March 24, 2009, Ada Lovelace Day, the first of what could become an annual Internet event.

Ada Lovelace Day is meant to be an international day of blogging to highlight women in technology "“ more than 1000 people have pledged to write a blog post today focusing on women and their contribution to technology. Charman-Anderson called for the day after observing the feelings of disempowerment experienced by her female friends in the tech industry, and after recent research showed that women need to see positive female role models more than men need to see male role models.

The day was named after Ada Lovelace, daughter of the poet Lord Byron and the Countess of Lovelace, who is considered the world's first computer programmer.

Born in 1815, Lovelace's childhood was spent largely separated from her famous father and bedridden with a series of life-threatening illnesses. Through those illnesses, Lovelace continued her education and by the time she was 17, her remarkable mathematical abilities began to emerge. All the while, she was a regular Georgian lady, who enjoyed dancing, was often at Court and was considered charming by many who met her.

It was through her relationship with Charles Babbage, philosopher, mathematician, and the inventor of the Difference Engine and the Analytical, that her true mathematical genius shined. The two engines, which sadly remained on-paper concepts or half-finished physical attempts during Babbage's lifetime, were essentially the first programmable computers. Lovelace wrote an algorithm that would calculate Bernoulli numbers "“ a series of rational numbers "“ for the Analytical Machine, making her the world's first computer programmer.

Lovelace died in 1852, at the age of 36, of uterine cancer, and until relatively recently, her impact on mathematics had been somewhat ignored. If Ada Lovelace Day takes off, however, modern female pioneers in the world of technology, like Lovelace, won't be ignored for long.

Being "in technology" is defined loosely as doing anything that involves using tech in an innovative or creative way, and is certainly open to interpretation. Thus far, Ada Lovelace Day has managed to reach some pretty lofty blogs, including Ian Douglas of the Telegraph, Naomi Alderman's blog at the Guardian. And of course, mental_floss.

Any ladies in technology want to weigh in? Anyone you'd like to shed the light of admiration on today?

March 24, 2009 - 8:32am
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