Ada Lovelace was an intellectual woman in an age when women weren’t pushed to be intellectual. Her mother made sure she was trained in mathematics rather than literature so that she wouldn’t follow in her father’s (the poet Lord Byron’s) footsteps.
This training as well as her place in society put her in a position to meet and work with an academic named Charles Babbage who hired her to help on his “Analytical Engine.” Ada took the project and ran with it, elaborating on the idea in notes that contain the first computer algorithm. She is now considered the world’s first computer programmer.
There are many things that made the story of Ada Lovelace possible: her noble birth and marriage, her mother’s reactionary nature, her training, the people she met in life, etc. But, central to the story is the passion that Ada had for her academic endeavors.
Had she simply been a translator, that’s all she would have done for Charles Babbage… translated an article from Italian that he could then use in developing his ideas. Instead, she dug into the ideas and came up with ideas of her own. She wasn’t afraid to write those ideas down and share them.
And, now we celebrate her and what she helped make possible.
Women today have it fairly easy compared to the women of the past (I’m referring to women in first world nations here… I know there are many women around the world who still struggle). We can do what ever we set our minds to. We can take on the historically female held roles of mother, teacher, nurse, secretary, or we can be doctors, lawyers, astronauts… it’s up to us.
The doors are open like they never have been. All we have to do is walk through them.
By finding and following our passions, we create new opportunities for the women who will follow. We make it easier for them to do what they dream of doing.
I am lucky in that as a young scientist, I was able to find wonderful female mentors to learn from. I saw that it is possible to be a successful woman in science. I saw that it is possible to have a family at the same time. I saw that I could do it too if I wanted.
Unfortunately, there aren’t enough female role models in the sciences. The number of women in academics is growing, but it is still not equal to the number of men. It’s not because women don’t like science, or aren’t studying science. The numbers just drop between graduate school and getting jobs.
That means that most women entering graduate school aren’t seeing other women in those positions of responsibility.
And, if seeing is believing, then we still have work to do.
But, that will come with time, and in the meantime, I’d like to thank all the women, like Ada, who toiled in the science or technology that inspired their questions.
Thank you for creating a world where I can ask questions, too.Filed under Women in Science |