Ada Lovelace

Today is Ada Lovelace day.   [No, no relation to.]

Good piece at El Reg on her and her contribution to science as a woman.

Unfortunately, she was latched onto by the F*m*n*z*s in the 60s and pressganged into being a feminist icon, along with many other women of note who were nothing of the kind and thus, during the backlash of 2010 onwards, she unfortunately goes down with the rest:

Recently ever more scientific historians have dismissed any sentimental view of Lovelace and have aligned themselves with a far more critical way of thinking. Computer historian Dr Allan Bromley told Salon: “All of her programs cited in her notes had been prepared by Babbage three to seven years earlier.”

Bruce Collier in his Harvard PhD dissertation on Babbage condemns Lovelace as ”the most overrated figure in the history of computing”; New Yorker journalist Jim Holt claims that Lovelace: “Had a shaky command of elementary algebra”; while perhaps most damningly, author Dorothy Stein argues: “The IT industry uses Ada as a kind of mascot to disguise what is really a bad situation for women in the field.”

I’m not that harsh on her.  She never tried to make out she was anything more than she was and what she was was unusual for the time.   I say well done to her and I’d have liked to have worked with her.

To El Reg’s credit, they did put up another female for canonization:

Lovelace’s childhood mentor, and the woman who introduced Lovelace to Babbage in the first place: Mary Fairfax Somerville (1780-1872).

[H/T Chuckles]

1 comment for “Ada Lovelace

  1. amfortas
    October 18, 2012 at 01:45

    What about the cleaning lady whose total inadequacy led to the discovery of penicillin? It is only misogyny that she has never been given credit. (sarcasm). Then there are the thousands of unsung heroines who handed out white feathers and so ensured sufficient cannon-fodder to win WW1. (even more).

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