Friday, October 07, 2011

Ada Lovelace Day

My friend Jules of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast alerted me Ada Lovelace Day, which is today. Ada Lovelace, born Ada Augusta Byron in 1815, is considered to be "The World's First Computer Programmer" because of her extensive mathematical work on Charles Babbage's analytical engine that produced the first computer algorithm.

Ada was the daughter of the poet Lord Byron (whom she never met) and Anne Isabelle Milbanke. Lovelace's parents separated soon after she was born, and her mother had her tutored in mathematics and science in an attempt to steer her daughter clear of poetry. After learning the story of Icarus and Dedalus, Ada decided that she would design her own flying machine, and and spent an extensive amount of time on what she dubbed "flyology." Even after her marriage to William Lovelace and three children following, Ada's focus and dedication to mathematics continue until her death from cancer at age 36.

I first learned about Lovelace from a local Seattle store, Ada's Technical Books. From that bookstore, I purchased two biographies:  Ada: A Life and a Legacy, by Dorothy Stein (which raises questions as to just how extensive Lovelace's work influenced Babbage), and an English children's book import called Ada Lovelace: The Computing Wizard of the Victorian World, by Lucy Lethbridge.

While so much of mathematics is still a mystery to me, I am trying to rectify as an adult the lack of a firm mathematics foundation I had as a child and teen. I did have one teacher who extended herself beyond her obligations to help those of us who struggled:  my Algebra I and II teacher, Mrs. Hoffman. In her class, and after school, I learned so much that there were quarters when I actually got A grades in math. (Unfortunately, the E grades I got the other quarters averaged out to C grades for the year. That's the way averages go.) Thank you, Mrs. Hoffman, for giving me a glimpse into how exhilarating math can be when one can understand the concepts in addition to plugging in the formulas.


Jules at 7-Imp said...

She died at 36? Oh my. I didn't know that. Too young.

Lovely post. Blaine wanted me to try to explain this day to Ada (simply 'cause he was at work when he had the idea), but I forgot and she's sleeping now. There's always tomorrow.

Lone Star Ma said...

I missed celebrating this year - shame on me!

A shout-out to my daughter's Algebra II teacher this year, who is supporting my daughter in IB math-world: Thanks, Ms. Puentes!

Saints and Spinners said...

Jules:Yes, tomorrow, and tomorrow... I did have a humorous image of you tapping on Ada to wake her up, and saying, "Pssst, guess what, today is Ada Lovelace day."

LSM: You can celebrate today. :)