Happy Ada Lovelace Day! Who Was She?

This year Ada Lovelace Day is today! In celebration, sites around the world are spotlighting women in math and science. To learn more about this and read some amazing stories, visit the site Finding Ada.

I thought I’d instead revamp a blog post I did last year on just who she is and give a round up of awesome Ada news that happened this past year.

If you’re a new visitor to the site, you might first be wondering why I care about Lady Lovelace? Well, besides thinking she was made of awesome, she’s my main secondary character in my time travel romance MUST LOVE BREECHES, for which I just found an agent, so it will be on submission with publishers soon. I purposely picked 1834 as the year my heroine time travels to so she could meet Lady Lovelace when she was still single (and known as Miss Byron).

So, who was she?

Steampunk lovers know her as one of the character’s in William Gibson and Bruce Sterling‘s alternate history novel The Difference Engine, where Charles Babbage finishes his invention and the computer age is ushered in much earlier.

Computer programmers might have heard of her, because she’s credited as being the world’s first computer programmer. In fact, the United States Defense Department named their new computer language, unveiled back in 1980, ADA.

Want to really understand the power and importance of Lovelace and Babbage’s work? Watch this great video giving the background and also plans to build the Analytical Engine.

Did you know, though, that she was the only legitimate daughter of that bad boy of English poetry, Lord Byron?

Another cool fact: she actually, as a child, tried to invent a steam-powered horse! She was so steampunk! She had her scientific pen pals send her dead birds so she could measure wing span to body mass. I’m not making this up.

Besides The Difference Engine, she’s also a main character in this novel: Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land (P.S.). I came across this at a library sale, talk about serendipity! It’s an imagined novel of Byron’s but set within two different story frames: one present day emails of a researcher who has ‘discovered’ this lost novel, and ‘notes and letters’ written by Ada about her attempts to recover the novel and hide it from her mother.

She’s a main character of a webcomic by Sydney Padua called 2D Goggles, or The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. This past year they announced the comics will finally be in book form! The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage- BOOK!. They also now have a Lovelace & Babbage app for the iPad!

And someone made a LEGO mini figurine!

Are you now scratching your head wondering why you’d never heard of her? (If you already have, yay!).

This last year in Lady Lovelace land:

Totally sold? Halloween’s coming up! Here’s a page on Lady Lovelace and how you can make an Ada Lovelace costume for Halloween

Blog/News posts and other cool linkages:

Biographies:

In Celebration of Ada Lovelace Day: Dr. Janet Whitson

Today is world-wide Ada Lovelace Day. Daughter of English poet, Lord Byron, she is often credited as being the first computer programmer. The United States Department of Defense named their computer program in 1980 ADA, in her honor. More about Lady Lovelace on Wikipedia.

Today, blogs worldwide are honoring her by picking a woman in science or technology to profile as role models for young women. I decided to not pick a household name, but instead find someone working hard in their profession and inspiring students. Through HER-stories.com, I found Dr. Janet Whitson.

Dr. Whitson is Associate Professor of Biology at Concordia University Nebraska. She has published research articles, her main focus being Alzheimer’s disease (specifically the beta-amyloid protein), traumatic brain injury, and ischemia. Her favorite brain part is the hippocampus, and all of her research has been focused on this area. Plus, you gotta love that she’s a geek at heart, quoting Star Wars. I admire her for not only her academic achievements, and her mentoring of students, but that she’s also helping other women through her monthly column at HER-stories.com.

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!