This year we are partnering with Ada Lovelace Day on Tuesday 14 October to host a live event celebrating women in science.
Ada Lovelace Day is an international celebration, sharing stories of women’s achievements in science, technology, engineering and maths. The aim is to highlight and create new role models for women, young and old, by highlighting female ambassadors in STEM subjects.
This year it will be held on Tuesday 14 October and we are pleased to announce that we will be hosting a live Ada Lovelace Day event here in the Ri’s historic lecture theatre.
The event’s namesake, Lady Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, is often referred to as the “first computer programmer”.
Daughter of the poet Byron, Ada held a close and lifelong friendship with the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, Charles Babbage, who referred to her as “The Enchantress of Numbers”. Intrigued by his Analytical Engine, she translated a description of it by the Italian mathematician Luigi Menabrea, which Babbage then asked her to annotate and expand upon. The resulting notes were the most elaborate and complete programs ever written for his early computing machine.
Ada also had great admiration for one of the Ri’s most eminent scientists, Michael Faraday. She tried eagerly to persuade him to tutor her in maths, once writing that she “entertain[ed] an esteem little short of reverence” for him but, despite a friendly correspondence, Faraday never did acquiesce to her request.
Ada died of cancer at the tragically young age of 36, leaving her great potential unfulfilled. However, whilst Babbage’s Analytical Engine was never built (and her programs therefore never drawn upon), her notes were to become a key inspiration in Alan Turing’s work on the first modern computers during the Second World War. Thanks to her remarkable intellectual and passion for her subject, Ada remains a powerful symbol of women in science and technology.
For more information about Ada Lovelace DAy please visit the Finding Ada website findingada.com.
The Ada Lovelace day event is just part of our year of celebrating women in science in 2014, which we are also marking with our first ever all women line-up for a year of Friday Evening Discourses.
Portrait of Ada Lovelace by Margaret Sarah Carpenter, 1836