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Ada Lovelace Day is an annual celebration of the achievements of women in the science and technology industries.

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) was a computing visionary and recognised that machines could be used for much more than mathematical calculations. She predicted they could compose music, produce graphics, and be useful to science.

Ada was born in London, the daughter of the poet Lord Byron. He left England when Ada was one month old and although her mother, Lady Byron, had little affection or interest in Ada, she did insist on a high-quality education. Ada’s mother was well educated, highly intelligent and particularly enthusiastic about mathematics and the sciences.

In 1833 Ada was invited to meet Charles Babbage who was a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. She was impressed by his early mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine, which was an attempt to build a mechanical calculating machine. She wrote to Babbage requesting copies of the machine’s blueprints, because she was determined to understand how it worked.

In order to further their understanding of machinery Ada and Lady Byron visited factories and witnessed Jacquard looms in weaving mills. These were controlled by punch cards which issued instructions to the machines to determine the pattern of fabrics and were a basic form of machine code.

In 1842 Ada Lovelace was the first to publish part of a program, specifically an algorithm, intended for implementation on Charles Babbage’s analytical engine. Because Babbage’s invention wasn’t completed in Lovelace’s time, she never had the opportunity to see the algorithm in action but Ada is known for identifying an entirely new concept of a computer.

90 years later Ada’s work was read by Alan Turing and her visionary concepts may well have influenced his work in developing the modern age of computing.

In recognition of Lovelace’s work the Pentagon and US military’s programmers named their own computing language Ada.

Role Models for Women in Science

Ada Lovelace is considered to be a female pioneer and an early role model for girls who wish to follow a career in STEM.

A lack of accessible female role models is often cited as one of the main reasons why the number of women in the European technology sector has not significantly increased.

Computer Weekly’s Hall of Fame was launched in 2015 to celebrate today’s women who have spent their career going above and beyond to improve diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.

The intention is to increase the visibility of women in tech in the hope of encouraging girls to get involved in STEM subjects. A recent new member of the Hall of Fame is Anne Marie Neatham, COO of Kindred, Ocado Group.

She told us: ‘I think it is especially important that as many women as possible share their stories by way of encouraging other women and girls into technology. If you are not in technology already you often only get a lecture in school about working in ‘an IT Department’.

‘You see lots of photographs of young men behind screens with a token female in the middle. I do not think this inspires girls or their parents.

‘Inspiration comes from real life stories of women who have an impact on the world around them. These stories can explain and inspire parents to encourage their children to consider a career in technology, in a way that a lecture on ‘working in IT’ could never do. Inspiration will drive those that are underrepresented in the industry to take up careers in technology.’

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