Ada Byron: Countess of Lovelace

       ***The follwing is content satisfying the Freshman Seminar 100 Fall 2011 F8 Beauty and Brains — Women in Science course. 

              The scientist I have chosen is Ada Byron: Countess of Lovelace. She was born and raised in London, England to a famous poet Lord Byron and Anna Isabella Milbanke in 1815. The reason I chose Ada Byron is because she was one of the very few scientists I found when I was researching that was able to keep her femininity (as seen in her pictures too) while still engage in the “masculine”  mathematics and sciences. This truly intrigued me to choose her because she proved that she was able to stay a “woman” while making many contributions to the scientific community. She was also dedicated in getting the attention of other scientists   Her importance in society is that Byron became the first ever  female computer programmer and the founder of scientific computing. Her biggest accomplishment was the creation of the Analytical Engine, a calculation which was a revolution for the computer world. She also translated this document for Charles Babbage, who initially had the idea for the Analytical Engine, but was not able to go farther than just the idea. Byron considered herself both a metaphysician and an analyst. She passed away at the young age of 36, but her findings are still notable to this day.

           Ada Augusta Byron is a great role model for aspiring future scientists. Although her initial job was only to translate the Analytical Engine, she forever changed the field of computer science by going above and beyond in her work. Unlike a majority of other female scientists, Byron was able to keep her femininity and stay into her math and sciences, which I saw as a real way to be a role model because that it staying true to what you are without changing yourself to be accepted in a community.   Many women see her as such a role model that they are pushing for the creation of an Ada Byron Appreciation day, which would be celebrated October 7th. I personally will be celebrating her tomorrow!                                                                                           Some of this countess of Lovelace’s major accomplishments include being named not only the first female, but first person to be denoted as a computer programmer, with the input she gave Charles Babbage in her notes that she added while translating his papers. Although the Analytical Engine only existed in theory, she was able to make it come to life. The United States Department of Defense later recognized her accomplishment of this and honored her by naming a programming language “Ada” in 1979.

The male scientist I chose to be a foil for my female scientist, Ada Byron Lovelace was indeed the man who started her career, Charles Babbage. I chose Babbage because I thought it would be interesting to compare both of their work ethics in the computer science and mathematics field and who got farther with their research. They both lived in the same time period, so that did not create any mishap. They came from elite households in which they began their education with very qualified private tutors. In a sense they both have qualities in them that make them a “successful scientist”, according to Anne Roe, even though Byron is a woman and Roe specified her findings toward males. Byron did not have a father or father figure in her life, and Babbage was born with an illness that required him to be isolated for most of his childhood.

While comparing both of these scientists, I realized many things. Charles Babbage was a very successful innovator, known to have invented a handful of things that are important in our lives today, yet Ada Byron’s only accomplishment was her suggestion to use the Bernoulli numbers. Although this had been a very crucial suggestion that changed the the computer world today, she seemed to be more well-known than did Babbage.

With my research, I did not find that gender influenced their career much. Inversely, I saw that being a woman for Ada Byron actually helped her in a sense because she was a woman, and she was able to do something before a man, which was widely controversial.  While other female scientists that we have learned in our course have not been able to be credited for their findings. Anything I found related to the Analytical Engine credited both Babbage and Byron Lovelace, and surprisingly this machine was associated more with Byron even though this was originally Babbage’s idea.

The organization I ended up choosing was the National Foundation of Business and Professional Women. They were formed on July 1919, on the rise towards World War I, when the role of women was quickly changed and seen very important to this time’s society, so everyone thought it would be appropriate to receive the recognition they deserved. Their mission is to empower working women to achieve their full potential and partners with employers to build successful workplaces through education, research, knowledge and policy.

Although my scientist may not directly associate herself with this organization because she was not considered as a professional business woman, she would essentially support this group as she was for the growth of women in the math and sciences, and a group that would have an impact in that would definitely be in her favor. 

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