I’m essentially an engineer and you’re probably one as well. The companies we work for are essentially technology-driven. We’re the lucky ones to work in such a thriving industry, but we would probably work in another industry or have a different career if it wasn’t for a woman, in the mid 19th century, who invented the concept of machine programming.

Inspired by the Women’s International Day, I picked the biography of Ada Lovelace to recollect the influence of women in our society. Ada is known as the first programmer because she wrote the first algorithm that could be encoded into Charles Babbage’s machine, but her contributions go beyond that. She had a vivid and thrilling vision of a variety of calculations being done by machines faster than any human abilities.

Ada Lovelace

A study of Babbage’s and Ada’s writings has shown that Babbage saw the world and mechanisms, in a more literal, factual way. For Ada, inventing metaphors for understanding science was second nature. She was the first to separate the science of mathematics from the science of computing and the first to see data and processing as distinct abstractions. We take these concepts for granted these days, but figuring them out with just the design of a computing machine at her disposal was genius.

She was born in a privileged family, with enough money to allow her to dedicate full time to science and math. Yet, she was marginalized and largely ignored. She knew that and also dedicated time to educate young girls in math. I would like to highlight an encouragement she wrote to her pupils:

“Remember above all things that you’re not to hurry over anything. There is plenty of time, and if you lay a good and solid foundation, the superstructure will be easy and delightful to build!”

Her contributions to science were only recognized 40 years after her death, delaying decades of technological advances.