Created in 2009, Ada Lovelace Day is a worldwide event to celebrate women in STEM careers. The day takes its name from the world’s first computer programmer, Ada Lovelace.
Born in 1815, she lived a tragically short life, dying at the young age of 36. However, her memory has lived on inspiring generations of young girls to study STEM subjects and pursue careers in technology and science.
Here are five facts about Ada that you may not have known.
1. Ada’s nickname as a child was ‘Princess of Parallelograms’, bestowed upon her by her famous father, the poet Lord Byron. Later on, enthralled by her brain, her mentor Charles Babbage nicknamed her the ‘Enchantress of Numbers’.
2. She had a serious gambling problem, which contributed to her declining finances, and led to her pawning the family’s diamonds. On one occasion she lost £3,200 betting on a horse at the Epsom Derby. Ada even put her programming skills to use trying to predict the outcome of races.
3. Both Ada and her father died at the age of 36. It is likely that Ada passed away from uterine cancer. Although she never knew her father – he died abroad when she was eight years old – she was deeply fascinated by him and requested to be buried alongside him in the Byron family vault inside the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Hucknall.
4. Babbage, who is considered to be ‘the father of the computer’, was Ada’s mentor. After she was taken under his tutelage she translated into English an article by Luigi Menabrea – military engineer and future Italian prime minister – about her mentor’s theoretical analytical engine. She added her own notes about the analytical engine that were three times as long as the original paper and it was published in an English journal in 1843 with only her initials, A.A.L.
5. At the age of 12, she conceptualised a flying machine after studying the anatomy of birds and the suitability of various materials. She illustrated her plans to build a winged flying apparatus before she began to think about powered flight. She wrote to her mother: “I have got a scheme to make a thing in the form of a horse with a steam engine in the inside so contrived as to move an immense pair of wings, fixed on the outside of the horse, in such a manner as to carry it up into the air while a person sits on its back.”