Ada Lovelace, the 19th-century "Enchantress of Numbers," is the namesake for the Ada Initiative, an organization aimed at encouraging girls and women to participate in open-source computer programming. In 2010, only 18% of computer science undergraduate degrees in the U.S. were awarded to women. In open-source software, used heavily by Facebook, Google, Twitter, and many more, the number is even lower.
Illustration by Colin Adams, for the Ada Initiative, based on a portrait by Alfred Edward Chalon

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    On December 10, 1815, Augusta Ada Byron was born in London, England. She would later marry, become the Countess of Lovelace, and be known as Ada Lovelace. Ada Lovelace is widely recognized as the world’s first computer programmer.
     
    Ada Lovelace was a celebrity. Her father, Lord Byron, was one of the most famous poets in Europe. Her friends included the novelist Charles Dickens and the scientist Michael Faraday, who pioneered discoveries in electromagnetism. 
     
    Lovelace worked intensely with Charles Babbage, a mathematician and engineer. Babbage is nicknamed the “father of the computer,” for having designed the first programmable computer, a machine that could be used for calculating complex mathematical problems. Babbage called this machine an “analytical engine,” and Lovelace wrote a series of notes about the device for publication. In these notes was an algorithm for using the analytical engine to calculate a sequence of numbers (called Bernoulli numbers). This algorithm, in which the analytical engine was told exactly what functions to calculate, and in what order, is often considered the first computer program. Babbage called Lovelace the “Enchantress of Numbers.”
     
    Today, Ada Lovelace is remembered as a pioneer in the computer science industry. October 14 is “Ada Lovelace Day.” There is an “Ada” computer language, a prestigious medal named after her given out by the British Computer Society, and organizations such as the Ada Initiative use her as a symbol to encourage girls to participate in coding, science, and the open-source movement.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    algorithm Noun

    set of steps for solving a mathematical problem.

    Bernoulli numbers Plural Noun

    ordered list of rational numbers determined by a complex function, the first few numbers being 1, ±1⁄2, 1⁄6, 0.

    calculate Verb

    to reach a conclusion by mathematical or logical methods.

    celebrity Noun

    famous person.

    coding adjective, noun

    study and process of writing and operating texts (codes) in programming language. Also called computer programming.

    complex Adjective

    complicated.

    computer Noun

    device designed to access data, perform prescribed tasks at high speed, and display the results.

    computer programming Noun

    study and process of writing and operating texts (codes) in programming language. Also called coding.

    computer science Noun

    study of the design and operation of computer hardware and software, and the applications of computer technology.

    consider Verb

    to think about.

    device Noun

    tool or piece of machinery.

    electromagnet Noun

    material or object whose magnetic field is produced by electricity.

    encourage Verb

    to inspire or support a person or idea.

    engineer Noun

    person who plans the building of things, such as structures (construction engineer) or substances (chemical engineer).

    examine Verb

    to scrutinize or study carefully.

    function Noun

    relationship between two numbers or sets of numbers.

    industry Noun

    activity that produces goods and services.

    intense Adjective

    extreme or strong.

    invent Verb

    to create.

    leather Noun

    skin of an animal, prepared for use as clothing, protection, shelter, or other use.

    linen Noun

    light, thin, durable fabric made from fibers of the flax plant.

    mathematician Noun

    person who studies the theory and application of quantities, groupings, shapes, and their relationships.

    measure Verb

    to determine the numeric value of something, often in comparison with something else, such as a determined standard value.

    novel Noun

    fictional narrative or story.

    open-source Adjective

    intellectual property, usually computer software, designed to allow all users to copy and modify it.

    pioneer Noun

    person who is among the first to do something.

    prestigious Adjective

    having a good reputation.

    publication Noun

    communication that is shared with the public, usually in print or electronic format.

    recognize Verb

    to identify or acknowledge.

    sequence Verb

    to put in order.

    symbol Noun

    something used to represent something else.

    technology Noun

    the science of using tools and complex machines to make human life easier or more profitable.