Win a copy of Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist!

In celebration of our 10th Ada Lovelace Day we are giving away a copy of Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist, a new account of Ada Lovelace’s mathematical education and achievements by Lovelace scholar and mathematician Ursula Martin, along with co-authors and fellow mathematicians Christopher Hollings and Adrian Rice.

Whilst there are many biographies extant of Ada, Countess of Lovelace, none explore her interest in maths in the same level of detail as Hollings, Martin and Rice, nor do they provide such a fascinating and compelling glimpse into her childhood, education and personality. The authors have been working for some time on digitising and analysing previously unpublished letters to and from Lovelace, and this book is just one result of that project.

Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist is a beautifully written and extraordinarily approachable book. Liberally illustrated with scans of her letters, portraits, and illustrations, we get an insight into Lovelace’s own fascinations and interests, as well as how her education was structured or, indeed, not.

As a girl, Ada was not permitted a formal education, instead being taught by governesses and, later, her mother, Lady Anne Isabella (Annabella) Byron. Whilst this meant that Ada could, to some extent, focus on what interested her the most, the lack of a formal syllabus meant that at times she had to go back to fill in the blanks before she could progress.

Much of Lovelace’s mathematical education came through exchanging letters and sometimes meeting with mathematicians, including Dr William Frend, Mary Somerville and, crucially, eminent mathematician and logician, Augustus de Morgan. By 1841, when she was 25, Lovelace was revisiting algebra so that she could more easily tackle calculus. But she wasn’t content to just do the exercises and move on to the next chapter, she wanted to fully understand the underlying principles and would work on a problem until she had really cracked it.

It is through her letters and her mathematical education that Hollings, Martin and Rice paint a vivid picture of the kind of person Lovelace was, illustrating her determination, tenacity and intelligence. Of course, the culmination of her studies was the writing of Note G, a ‘footnote’ to Lovelace’s translation from French to English of Luigi Menabrea’s paper about Charles Babbage’s computing machine, The Analytical Engine. Note G very famously contains instructions for the calculation of Bernoulli Numbers, widely considered to be the first computer program. For many, though, Lovelace’s crowning achievement was not the program, but her vision of what The Analytical Engine could do, her realisation that if it could manipulate numbers then it could manipulate symbols and might thus be capable of creating music or graphics.

“Lovelace’s paper is an extraordinary accomplishment, probably understood and recognized by very few in its time, yet still perfectly understandable nearly two centuries later. It covers algebra, mathematics, logic and even philosophy: a presentation of the unchanging principles of the general-purpose computer; a comprehensive and detailed account of the so-called ‘first computer program’; and an overview of the practical engineering of data, cards, memory and programming.”

Hollings, Martin and Rice’s accomplishment is to take a maths-heavy subject and make it not just comprehensible to the non-mathematician, but thoroughly enjoyable. Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist’s only flaw is its brevity: It is so well-written that I could easily have read a version double the length.

If you would like to win a copy of Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist, please share a link to this blog post on social media, then leave a comment below with a link to your social media post. Please make sure that the email in your comment profile works, so that we can get hold of you! The competition will close at midnight BST on 8 October, and we will announce the winning prize on Ada Lovelace Day, 9 October. Only open to residents of the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. 

And talking of Ada Lovelace Day, don’t forget to get your tickets to our science cabaret event, Ada Lovelace Day Live at The IET in London, and check our worldwide map to see if there’s an indie event on near you!

Mentorship and support for women in STEM

Inspiring Science and Innovating Science Award longlists

An amazing selection of women has been announced for the longlist of the women in science research and advocacy awards, run by Nature and Estée Lauder.

The Inspiring Science Award recognises early career female researchers who are doing outstanding work, and our founder, Suw, was one of the judges. On the longlist are:

  • Dr Cara Battersby, who studies how stars are born in our galaxy’s centre at the University of Connecticut, USA
  • Dr Ilano Brito, who is pioneering systems-level methods to analyse the human microbiome at Cornell University, USA
  • Dr María Natalia Lisa, who is investigating signalling pathways employed by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis at the Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina,
  • Dr Shruti Naik, who studies how environmental stimuli collaborate with genetic factors to control immunity in the skin at New York University, USA
  • Dr Mirjana Pović, who studies galaxy formation and evolution, focused on nuclear activity in galaxies at the Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute, Ethiopia, and Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (CSIC), Spain
  • Ritu Raman, who is designing synthetic materials that adapt to their environment in the same way as biological materials at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA
  • Rebecca Calisi Rodríguez, who studies how hormones in the brain and body work to make animals, including humans, reproduce at the University of California, Davis, USA
  • Dr Corinna Stefanie Schindler, who studies physical organic chemistry at the University of Michigan, USA
  • Dr Kelsey A Stoerzinger, who studies reactions that convert solar energy into fuels at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Washington State, USA
  • Dr Dawn Tan, who studies the dynamics of light-matter interactions at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, Singapore

The Innovating Science award honours those involved with encouraging girls and women into science. The women and organisations listed for this award are:

  • Dr Marja Seidel for Cielo y Tierra, empowering girls through science inquiry activities, focusing on rural areas, global
  • Morgan DiCarlo for Civil Engineering Outreach, an outreach program to recruit high school women into engineering, USA
  • Madison Smither for From Student to Scientist and the Emmy Noether Award and Scholars Program, providing science opportunities to students outside of the classroom, and a $75,000 fellowship for a young female scientist to conduct graduate-level research and a mentorship program giving girls the ability to conduct laboratory research, USA
  • Anvita Gupta for LITAS for Girls, helping girls in computer sciences and STEM, USA
  • Dr Aliyah Weinstein for Letters to a Pre-Scientist, demystifying science careers by creating personal connections between students and real scientists, USA
  • Mambepa Nakazwe for Seeds of Change Foundation Zambia, advocating for girls with special needs to take up interest in information communication technology careers and empowers them with entrepreneurship skills, Zambia
  • Yasmin Kroll for Techbridge Girls, championing equality in STEM education and fair access to economic opportunities for all girls, USA
  • Dr Yvonne Commodore-Mensah for The African Research Academies for Women, providing fully-funded research opportunities for young women to complete a Summer Undergraduate Research Program at African universities, Africa
  • Fanni Szigeti for The Association of Hungarian Women in Science, promoting STEM and computer sciences among girls who are under-represented in these fields of education, Hungary
  • Rethabile Sonibare for Thope Foundation, empowering young girls in STEM, South Africa

The shortlist will be announced next month.

US Senate honours Ada Lovelace

US Senator Ron Wyden has introduced a resolution honouring Ada Lovelace and recognising Ada Lovelace Day to the Senate, the upper chamber of the United States Congress. The senator, who represents Oregon, submitted S.Res.592A resolution designating October 9, 2018, as “National Ada Lovelace Day” and honoring the life and legacy of Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer.

The statement is a Simple Resolution, which is “used to express nonbinding positions of the Senate”. These resolutions often “express public gratitude for distinguished contributions; dramatize the virtues of individuals, groups, and causes; and perpetuate the remembrance of significant events” says a congressional report. “During the past two centuries, commemoratives have become an integral part of the American political tradition,” the report says.

We are delighted that Ada Lovelace’s achievements have been recognised in this way, and that the Senate chose to support our mission of raising the profile of women in STEM by giving Ada Lovelace Day itself official status in the US.

The full text of the resolution (PDF) reads:

115TH CONGRESS
2D SESSION
S. RES.

Designating October 9, 2018, as ‘‘National Ada Lovelace Day’’ and honoring the life and legacy of Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

Mr. WYDEN (for himself and Mrs. FISCHER) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on [25 July 2018]

RESOLUTION

Designating October 9, 2018, as ‘‘National Ada Lovelace Day’’ and honoring the life and legacy of Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer.

Whereas Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace, now known as Ada Lovelace, was born on December 10, 1815, in London, United Kingdom;

Whereas, from a young age, Lovelace displayed a gift for mathematics, languages, and the sciences;

Whereas, at the age of 17, Lovelace began to study mathematics under the guidance of scientist and translator Mary Somerville and, later, logician Augustus de Morgan;

Whereas, in 1833, Lovelace was introduced to inventor and mechanical engineer, Charles Babbage, and began to study his designs for the Analytical Engine, a mechanical computer;

Whereas Lovelace was the first person to recognize that the Analytical Engine could be used to manipulate symbols and letters and was the first person to theorize that the Analytical Engine could be used to create music and graphics;

Whereas, in 1843, Lovelace published step-by-step instructions for using the Analytical Engine to calculate Bernoulli numbers ‘‘without having been worked out by human head and hands first’’;

Whereas these insights gave Lovelace an unparalleled vision of the future of computer science, and she stated that ‘‘[a] new, a vast and a powerful language is [being] developed for the future use of analysis, in which to wield its truths so that these may become of more speedy and accurate practical application for the purposes of mankind’’;

Whereas the work of Lovelace went widely unrecognized until the 1950s, when her papers were republished, and their significance and her contributions to the fields of computer science and mathematics were finally acknowledged;

Whereas, in the 1980s, to honor the contributions of Lovelace, the Department of Defense named its newly created computer language ‘‘Ada’’ after Lovelace;

Whereas the second Tuesday in October is annually celebrated as Ada Lovelace Day and is intended to honor women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and their accomplishments and contributions to academia and the world; and

Whereas Ada Lovelace died on November 27, 1852, leaving behind a legacy of poetic science and reasoning, in which the arts and sciences are woven together to find new insights:

Now, therefore, be it

1 Resolved, That the Senate—
2 (1) designates October 9, 2018, as ‘‘National
3 Ada Lovelace Day’’; and
4 (2) honors the life and contributions of Ada
5 Lovelace, a leading woman in science and mathematics and the first computer programmer.

Senator Wyden tweeted:

And the British Embassy in Washington tweeted:

Join us on 9 October for Ada Lovelace Day!

Want to inspire girls to love code?
Or celebrate women in STEM?

Join people around the world in celebrating the tenth Ada Lovelace Day on Tuesday 9 October and organise your own, independent event for girls or women in tech!

Every year, dozens of groups host their own events to mark the day, create new female role models, and support and encourage girls and women into STEM. These events take many forms — from conferences to Wikipedia ‘edit-a-thons’ to pub quizzes — and appeal to all ages, from girls to university students, to women with well-established careers.

We’ve had events in cities from A Coruña to Zoetermeer, taking in Addis Ababa, Brasilia, Curitiba, Daejeon, Enugu, Florence, Granada, Halley Research Station, Ísafjörður, Johannesburg, Kathmandu, Ljubljana, Maharashtra, New York, Ockham, Pune, Quartu Sant’Elena, Recife, Sheboygan, Tunis, Ulster, Vilnius, Wellington, and York on the way. We only need someone in Xai-Xai, Xalapa, Xinghua or Xo’jayli to organise an event this year and we’ll have a full alphabet!

The enthusiasm with which people across so many countries have adopted Ada Lovelace Day, and the work that they have put in to organise their own events, shows just how widespread the desire is to support and inspire girls and women in STEM. Everyone who organises or attends an event is part of a global movement to champion girls and women in STEM and change the way we think about women in science, technology, engineering and maths.

You can be a part of this global movement by organising your own Ada Lovelace Day event this year. To help you, we’ve put together an Organiser Pack, along with some resources such as blank fliers. We’ve also created a new mailing list just for indie event organisers where we’ll share news and information as it comes in. And you can follow us on Twitter or Facebook to stay up-to-date with all our indie event news.

So, let’s get going and make 2018, our tenth Ada Lovelace Day, the biggest  yet!

 

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