Ada Lovelace Day 2011 begins in Kiribati

Ada Lovelace Day has already begun in the island nation of Kiribati! One of the curious things about a ‘day’ is that due to various dateline shenanigans it’s Ada Lovelace Day somewhere around the world for a grand 50 hours. This means that you have plenty of time to get your tribute to a woman in science, technology, engineering or maths and add it to our collection.

If you don’t have your own blog or website, please do feel free to use the comments on this post as a place to add your tribute.

Let the celebrations begin!

Posted in Ada Lovelace Day 2011.


  1. I figured I’d mention someone who I only recently found out about…

    Georgina Bensley is an indie programmer who has several fantasy computer games targeted at girls for sale. Most wannabe game programmers give up long before release even without being a minority programmer targeting a small (but growing!) minority market.

    I think that’s awesome.

  2. Dr Thompson and Dr Stephanie Smullen

    When I was an undergrad CS major in the 1980s, TWO of the professors in the tiny CS department at UT Chattanooga were women! Typical of the time that I don’t know Dr Thompson’s first name, since all the professors were addressed formally by the students (Dr Smullen is still on staff, so I could look her name up). They were both interesting teachers and good role models.

  3. Mary Vlastnik Armon is a mathematician at Knox College, and I’ve had the pleasure of taking classes with her for the past few years. She’s very warm, patient, and engaging, and it’s easy to see that she really loves her work. She’s excellent at making math accessible, and she’s always willing to field questions. There are six professors in the department–she’s the only woman, and she definitely holds her own. I really hope that one day I can be that driven, that passionate, that kind.

  4. Ada herself was my inspiration. First learning the Ada programming language in high school I continued my studies in mathematics and programming through university in a very male dominated field. I found strength and inspiration in Ada 🙂 this may sound rather strange but I’d like to call my first born girl after her, an awesome woman that also has a beautiful name. I have a little boy awaiting a little sister on day.

    Happy Ada day 🙂

  5. This year I’ve been inspired by my colleague, Tricia Webb. Tricia is a senior lecturer in Computing and brings to her teaching a wealth of experience gained from her career as an IT developer and manager. Her research is addressing how “lessons learnt” in projects can be more formally distilled and passed onto others so new project managers can benefit from the experience of others. Her particular focus is NHS IT projects, an area where there are definitely many lessons to be learnt! Well done, Tricia, and keep up the good work!

  6. Maggie Boden ( was one of the very first academics that I encountered as a first-year undergraduate when I enrolled on a weird little degree programme in “Psychology and Computer Models” at the University of Sussex. At the start of the first term, she gave a series of open lectures in COGS (the School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences) on the history of cognitive science that started at Aristotle and moved through Descartes, the holists, behaviourists and cognitivists, Piaget and Vygotsky, Marr and Chomsky, to the various stripes of recent and contemporary artificial intelligence, right up to neural and evolutionary computing and autonomous robotics. For me these lectures achieved two things: they confirmed that I was in the right place studying the right thing, and they gave me a lasting sense that understanding a discipline’s history was critical to moving it forward.

    Over the following seven years of my life within COGS as an undergraduate and PhD student Maggie was a continuous presence. I took her classes on understanding creativity which were brilliant, but I also benefitted from the radically interdisciplinary ethos of COGS which she was a big part of establishing and maintaining. Maggie had founded the School and through force of personality and intellectual conviction she had helped to define an atmosphere of exploration, innovation and hybridisation that had become utterly entrenched to the point of being, to us, unremarkable. She championed a generation of young researchers at Sussex, gave advice, opened doors, and created space for them. At the time it was easy to take this intellectual environment for granted – didn’t every group in every University work this way? My experience since leaving COGS has disabused me of that notion – and recent events at Sussex, where a series of disastrous vice chancellors have done their best to dismantle what made it a unique university within the UK, have proved that interdisciplinarity will always be fragile and will always rely on the effort and intellectual leadership of champions such as Maggie.

  7. Professor Sisse Siggaard Jensen – she is adding coolness, humor, empathy, knowledge, passion for theory and subject and a continuous curiosity to an often dry, cold and closed research world. Thank heaven for women as her.

  8. I am forever indebted to my college math teacher, Suzanne Urech-Vallet, for inspiring me to choose a career in programming. She recommended me to attend a summer math camp for gifted students. I was hooked after my first FORTRAN course. Forty-five years later I am forever grateful that I was able to earn a living, and support a family, doing something that is so much fun and rewarding.

    I have never been able to find her to thank her. She taught at the Collège Sainte-Maire, Montreal, in the 60’s.

  9. Dr. Cathy Fosnot –

    Inspired me to learn other ways to empower children to explore the world of Mathematics through her Mathematics in Residence Program and Contexts for Learning Mathematics curriculum.

    Thank you Dr. Fosnot!

  10. Matina Thomaidou

    Since I’ve met her, her passion about her scientific research coupled with her willpower, attention to detail and the way how she comforted and motivated me wherever I was confused…

    I’m so grateful!

  11. I’ve written a blog post for Ada Lovelace Day on the Smithsonian Institution Libraries blog at The entry is about a girl or woman named Mary Smith from 18th century England who produced a notebook with over 300 handwritten pages filled with information about science, mathematics, astronomy, etc. She and Ada Lovelace would have had such wonderful conversations if they were contemporaries! Thank you for the inspiring project of Ada Lovelace Day!

  12. I didn’t have too many female professors or PIs throughout my science education– a sad result of the social and professional norms that make it so difficult for women in this field. But I worked for a woman once named Christina Ravelo, a paleoceanographer from University of Santa Cruz. She was thrilling to be around because she has this amazing chess players’ mind… she could always see ten more moves ahead of where I was. And on top of that, she is an amazing woman with a beautiful family and a great sense of humor. I wonder how many more of my female classmates would have been inspired to grow up to be scientists if only there were more Christina Ravelos in the world.

  13. My Ph.D. mentor was Dr. Beth Mullin at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. She just retired this past summer. She had so much enthusiasm about studying how plants interact with bacteria and other organisms. She made me what I am today. A scientist mentoring my own students.

  14. I know it isn’t exactly what the day is about, but I think an interesting variation on a theme: Murphy Lawless, the first woman who really made me think I could play roller derby. Sports tend to be men’s sports, with women’s sports an afterthought. The very existence of roller derby, which is to say women’s roller derby, has been a huge inspiration in my life. Being female does not equate itself in our culture to physical competence. The more female you are perceived as being, the less right you have to sport. Being of slight frame, I accepted this particular exclusion for most of my life. Even when demanding voice in classrooms, social justice movements, and anywhere else I could, I bought the idea that I was weak. Finding one amazing skater who worked with a smaller body than my own changed the way I viewed my self and my options. In the spirit of celebrating cast off limitations of the mind due to being born female, I choose to celebrate the woman who proved to me that I could be strong. As my derby wife put it, I discovered that our bodies (and minds) are not predestined.

  15. I share with you the three women who have most influenced my abiding interest in the biological sciences.

    Mrs. Betty Scott was my tenth grade biology teacher (at Alexis I Dupont High School in Delaware). She introduced me to compelling reasons to be interested in DNA and genetics — the human reasons — by telling us that she and her late husband had never had children, by choice, because they were both sickle cell carriers. She also noticed my interest in biology and went out of her way to cultivate it. We did the usual pond scum microscopy that I’d also done in 7th grade, but this time, I got a really fascinating sample in my Ragu spaghetti sauce jar, and she let me keep it going all through the year, since I had apparently gotten just the right combination of nutrients and organisms, and it kept on living and changing. When I had downtime in class, she let me get out the microscope and gaze raptly at my little buggies swimming about. She even let me stay there one day when I really, really didn’t want to go to a “mandatory” pep rally. I missed my bus because I was too fascinated, but it was totally worth it. I credit Mrs. Scott with lighting the Bunsen burner under my beaker of biology love.

    Dr. Dara Wegman-Geedey was, way back before the PhD got finished and she married, my microbiology lab TA at University of Delaware. I was struggling in the microbiology class itself — bacterial genetics just don’t work like human genetics! — but the lab itself was fabulous, and proved to me that I could be really damn good in the wet lab. We became friends through that lab class, and she’s the reason that I went on to TA a micro lab myself (as her sidekick), then to TA a general biology lab (by myself), and also worked for a year for the microbiology lab folks (and my best boss ever in the world, Louise Clouser, also a fabulous scientist in her own right), preparing the plates of bugs for the micro labs. Dara is the reason I think and write about science education, why I still give the occasional lecture on basic genetics and sex differentiation, and why I was interested in becoming a science training writer at all. My first career love really is science education, and that’s part of why I’m a medical training writer as well as a genomics/informatics technical writer. Dara is now a professor at Augustana College.

    Dr. Patricia Martin-DeLeon was, first, my professor of cytogenetics my sophomore year of college (a class I did MUCH better in than microbiology), then my advisor when I did undergraduate research (mapping the creatine kinase muscle enzyme gene in the rabbit genome), then my advisor as I sought graduate schools. She was very much interested in the human side of genetics, which played into my interests beautifully, and it’s mostly her stories about patients that I remember most keenly from her class. Down another trouser leg of time, I am a cytogeneticist working in genetic counseling because of Dr. DeLeon. Dr. DeLeon recently received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (

  16. I’d like to write about my colleague, Tricia Webb, who is Senior Lecturer in Computing at UEL. Her teaching is enlivened by her experience gained from working in the IT industry as a system analyst and project manager. Her research is investigating how “lesson learnt” in projects can be formalised and distilled so that project managers starting new projects can learn from the experiences of others. Her area of study is NHS IT projects where this sort of knowledge is definitely needed. Keep up the good work, Tricia!

  17. I would like to recognise the amazing contribution my former Head Teacher, Jillian Hadman made to so many young women who were encouraged to live their lives ‘in quietness and confidence’ (the school moto). Mrs Hadman knew every girl in the school by name (and there were around 700 in my day), she knew what subjects we were studying, what our aspirations were, she knew the names of our siblings – I found this incredible at the time and I still do.

    I remember Mrs Hadman’s assemblies fondly – she often cited inspiring women, and was herself particularly inspired by the late Anita Roddick. She encouraged us not only to think of what we could achieve in our lives, but also to act always with a sense of ethics and fairness.

    It was not until much later in my life that I fully appreciated how lucky I had been to have such an inspiring Head Teacher and to believe that my options in life were never limited by my gender. I studied both science and arts at A-Level and went on to study Psychology to PhD level – I retain a keen interest in both science and the arts to this day. I also, many years later, appreciate the wisdom in the school motto, particularly when I come across those who feel the need to express their views with a loud voice, or to push themselves forward forcefully, rather than quietly listening, understanding and acting with careful consideration.

    I now have two daughters of my own and I hope that I can help them to grow up with a sense of quiet confidence, to live their lives without limits, to embrace science and art with equal passion, to learn from the world and show compassion for others. I have been fortunate to know many strong and inspiring women in my life and to these women I am eternally grateful.

  18. At the risk of embarrassing her, I would like to mention my first-born daughter, Sophie Catt, now 17 years old. She is currently applying to university to study mathematics. I have learnt far more from her than from any other person on this earth and she continues to inspire me day by day.

  19. my dad and my maths teacher who came up with the idea to give me insoluble exercises to keep me from disturbing my classmates.

  20. My mother, who inspired and guided me to take on anything I wanted to do, and demonstrated that a woman could do anything she wanted.

  21. I can’t sy anyone inspired me to become an engineer. I only know that I discovered I loved math in my 30’s so quit my job as a social worker to pursue schooling and engineering was applied math, so…well, that was it for me!

  22. Here’s a story of women who inspired us in education, medical care and engineering:

    Today (Oct. 7, 2011) the University of Nebraska-Lincoln dedicated a new state-of-the-art lab for undergraduates studying biological engineering. Dr. Carol Swarts, a UNL and UNMC alum, donated much of the money needed to build the lab. In her words:

    I grew up “barefoot” in the Sandhills during the Depression. Like many tenant farm families, we had nothing. You depended on each other in those days, and you looked after your family.

    For me, it’s all about family. We were brought up with a work ethic and the altruism that goes along with it – looking after your neighbor and working for what you get. My parents never turned anyone away.

    My dream of being a doctor began when I was 3. My folks promoted that dream. When I went to medical school in 1955, they bought me a $500 microscope. That was a fortune for them. But they believed in education. They believed it was the way out of poverty and the way to find success. They never defined success in terms of money. They defined it as the ability to give back and help others. My three brothers supported my dream, too. They always said, “Carol, anything we can do, you can do.” If I had not had family support, I would never have been able to persist.

    That’s why I wanted to honor my parents and brothers and name this lab for them – The Swarts Family Biological Engineering Teaching Lab.

    My mother attended UNL in the early 1900s. She became a teacher and an artist. She helped get the school in Murdock, Neb., accredited and was the first female school superintendent in Nebraska. I established the Elenore Gakemeier Swarts Distinguished Scholarship in Biological Systems Engineering in her name at the university to encourage and help outstanding, passionate students in bioengineering – students like Angie Pannier, now a professor of bioengineering (who teaches in this new lab).

    You never achieve anything on your own. There are many others who contribute to your success with encouragement, finances, mentoring. Someone may help you get a part-time job so you can earn money for school, or someone may teach you the importance of education.

    Like Will Allen Dromgoole’s poem “The Bridge Builder.” It tells the story of a man who, at the end of a long day, encounters a chasm. He crosses the span and then sets out to build a bridge across the space he just navigated. His companion wants to hurry to journey’s end and asks him why he didn’t just continue on his journey. The man explains that others will come after him who are inexperienced and face unknowns and that he built the bridge for them.

    I think those of us who have and know, should share – whether it’s knowledge, personal assistance or finances. To me, a successful gift is when you see something positive develop that might not have been possible.

    My dream for this lab is that it gives undergraduate students the opportunity to extend beyond the norm, to find a good life, to discover a passion for what they do. I expect it to attract those exceptional Nebraskans who want more from their university than a regular class. They are our future. The lab gives our professors the tools to lead them.

    And my dream for this lab is that, someday, the students who use it will build their own bridges for others who follow.

  23. Actually it was my mother, Janet Gabereau, who inspired me to be a Computer Scientist. She went to school to study Programming before Conmputer’s were invented! (just kidding! Although, how she got interested in the first place still remains one of life’s great mysteries). Love you mom! Your a woman before your time! I am proud to carry on the family tradition!

    Also Sadie Plant and her wonderful book: Zeros and Ones: Digital Woman and the New Technoculture.

    And Ada!

  24. I just spent some time reading your “Our Mission” page, and have a few thoughts and questions.
    Are women in the arts less effective role models than those pursuing careers in the sciences? Is illustration or animation under the “suitable” career umbrella for the traditional female?
    I think that you find just as many women in a comic book distributor boardroom as you would women in a sciences or engineering boardroom (and it’s not for lack of striving for it in the female community, trust me).
    I realize that Ada Lovelace was not an artist. And don’t get me wrong, I hav a strong appreciation for science, and the message you are cultivating with this event is wonderful.
    Why not strive for equality in all professional careers instead of considering some more prominent than others?

  25. Thank goodness for Jadwiga Weyant, mathematics instructor at Edmonds Community College, Edmonds WA. She helped me figure out why math had been my buggaboo for so many years, and enabled me to go on to get a degree and become a Technical Designer at Boeing.

  26. Bonnie McIvor was one of the best engineers I ever worked with. She was without a doubt the most versatile technical person I have ever met. She could take any technical challenge, whether in her domain of expertise or not, competently and quickly develop the skills she needed, and complete the task within any given boundaries.

    Heather Ito also had a huge influence on my technical life. While not falling strictly in the science, technology, engineering and maths field, she was a technical project manager, and she was the first person I ever worked with that had full respect and faith in her team members. She taught me that every member of a team is valuable in their own domain. I learned a lot about working with people, and living with people. Heather was a huge part of making me who I am today in a professional capacity.

  27. From

    “This Ada Lovelace Day on October 7, share your story about a woman — whether an engineer, a scientist, a technologist or mathematician — who has inspired you to become who you are today”

    Sadly, my story on women in technology is not dedicated to an influential woman or women who helped me become the professional nerd I am today. There aren’t any. So this post is dedicated to me.

    I was and am inspired by technology itself. While there are no big ideas, bold gestures, or major achievements to report here–I am a woman who works in technology. My contribution is small and simple and made up of two things:

    1. I work hard to serve as a bridge between the technology (broadband media—satellite & terrestrial IP multicasting for radio, video, digital cinema, 3D, and data) that I labor day in and day out to champion, and the people who can benefit from it.

    2. I try to help other women where ever I can. I do my best to be a professional mentor and a personal example. We need all the breaks we can get (I’ve had several crucial ones in my career) and mentoring has been a fantastic experience for me.

    Being a woman who works in high tech can be very lonely. That’s changing, but very very slowly. At the trade shows I attend in Latin America a visit to the women’s room is usually a trip into a smoky purgatory filled with spokesmodels resting their bruised feet after hours in sadistic stiletto heels.

    They are still the majority, I’m the minority. We’ve come a long way but it’s a saddening and humbling reminder of how far we have to go.

    On this Ada Lovelace Day I celebrate Ada and all of the other pioneers of our buried history that make us proud. But my commitment, my heart and hand go out to the women of the future. Greetings and love from Ada Lovelace Day 2011.

  28. Hi! As a woman in tech, it’s great to celebrate Ada Lovelace day. Sadly I did not have any STEM women in my life growing up. But in launching and She’s Geeky Inc, I am hoping to change that for young women growing up. This year we gave away a scholarship to a young girl to attend National Computer Camp and we hope to build on that next year.

    Here is my post about Ada Lovelace day:

    Thank you,

  29. Margaret Rommel was my first boss when I entered the IT field, 25 years ago. She hired me straight out of technical college, where I had earned a COBOL programming certification. Margaret was 30 years my senior, and had been in IT since after WWII, when she programmed cigarette machines to give 3 cents change from a quarter. This programming was done by wiring an electronic board. She took me under her wing at the City of Seattle, and taught me to think critically and carefully. She was one of my best friends.

  30. My inspiration comes from a number of great women who’ve helped me get through various difficult patches when trying to learn math. The first was my math teacher in 8th grade, at Sholes Jr. High in Milwaukee, WI, Ms. Curtin. It was the first and only time in my life that I got an A on a math test. She was very strict and we were not allowed to talk much in class. However, she was open about the important stuff: I couldn’t do things the way she explained it, and when I showed her how I did my calculations, she said, well, that’s a bit roundabout, but it seems consistent and if that works for you, that’s fine.
    When I got that math test back, i was the only one in the class with an A, and no-one could believe it was me. I still remember how that felt. I never even thanked her. She didn’t try to jam me into a way of working that didn’t make sense to me. That was worth gold.
    Another woman was Laurie (Laurel) Travis. She helped me with my computer science class when I was studying at UW-Madison. The TA was not very interested in the fact that I couldn’t follow and I asked her to help me out. We’d sit at her house, on the floor, eating pizza and she’d write out some problem for which I’d have to write a short program in Basic. (She was a math professor at UW-Whitewater at the time, who used computer programmes to do modeling, for reforestation projects among other things.)

    Within a few short weeks she had helped me understand that I could do this, all on my own, and at one point she told me, you could program if you wanted to, for work. I passed my class, though I had a hard time with some of the theory. She made it fun, and years later I worked doing website development and worked with ASP programming and really enjoyed it. I also liked learning about databases.

    Another woman is Pamela Sandler Clapp, who lives in Lincoln MA, and teaches at Broccoli Hall School. Pamela got her Ph.D in physics at UW. Like Laurie, I met Pamela while working at a fabric and clothing store. (I introduced them to each other, in fact, and for the rest of the night I couldn’t understand anything they were talking about.) She was often gone for long periods, doing research at other locations, but during one sojourn we were eating (pizza, what else?) at her house and watching Star Trek and I asked her how they came up with all that stuff about warp speed… and she offered to explain it to me, saying it was all based solidly on actual physics. (She did research in accelerated particles.)

    I”m the only one in my family who isn’t really scientifically oriented. I am left handed, artistic, very good at languages and enjoy knitting, which might be why I also like reading code (and I’m good at it). When I graduated I got a job working for a financial news service because I can write well, learn quickly, speak languages and my wonderful boss, a talented and intelligent man from Maryland, re-taught me how to do percentages. I got so good at it i didn’t need to do the math, I could do rough guesses within one %-point accuracy.

    So many people to thank, so little time. It’s just important not to give up if you really want to do something!! Many blessings, my sisters!!!

  31. Dr. Vicki Almstrum

    Vicki was my PhD advisor. She encouraged, cajoled, pushed and pulled me to my goal; always caring and always there. She is a dear friend and colleague. I did a practice interview with her for the Computing Educator’s Oral History Project. You can view or listen to Vicki’s interview as well as many other great women (and men) computing educators at

  32. I wanted to highlight the efforts of Dr. Anita Kitchens, my math professor at Appalachian State University. She’s tirelessly devoted a large part of her career, for over three decades, to teaching mathematics to the many, many people that don’t naturally grasp it, and to improving the overall state of mathematics education.

    I was one of her students, and while I hardly became a mathematician (it’s still not my strong suit) I exited her classes far more capable at something I once feared, and with a wider view of the world around me.

  33. Dr. Sophia Darwin at Durham University helped me a lot. She has a lot of enthusiasm for maths, like most lecturers, but she really showed us how fascinating maths can be. She was always great to talk to about different areas of maths outside the course that interested me. When I was having to do all the boring grind work in between the fun bits of the subject, she reminded me why I was doing it and why I loved maths so much.

  34. Since I am a tech policy geek, I’m going to pick some women in technology policy who influenced me early in my career: Leslie Harris (, Deirdre Mulligan (, Mary Bottari (, and the women of the American Library Association’s Washington Office ( and Office for Intellectual Freedom (

  35. Ada Lovelace Byron was my inspiration for what has turned out to be a full scale opera about her. I read and researched her about her 5 years ago as I am obsessed with stories about the contributions women have made to society and culture – that have been obscured or forgotten. Kim Sherman is the composer and Margaret Vandenburg is the librettist. Please check out our website for more infomation. ADA, the opera, has been chosen for the development program for Center for Contemporary Opera and will receive a full workshop in spring 2012. Stay tuned!

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