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The first computer programmer was a female in the 1800s (yep)

The statistics about female talent in coding are dismal. For years, girls have not been directed toward the sciences and mathematics. Interestingly, one of the pioneers in computers is a woman whose father was a famous poet.

ada lovelace

Representing for the ladies

The statistics about women in coding are dismal. Last year, a Huffington Post headline read, “The stats on women in tech are actually getting worse.” An infographic from the National Center for Women & Information Technology asks, “Technology is everywhere, where are the girls?” The computer science industry has one of the lowest representation of females.

In some ways, this isn’t surprising. For years, girls have not been directed toward the sciences and mathematics. Interestingly, one of the pioneers in computers is a woman whose father was a famous poet.


The Enchantress of Number

Ada Lovelace, nee Byron, was the only legitimate child of Lord Byron and his wife, Annabella. Out of bitterness, Annabella encouraged her daughter’s interest in mathematics and logic, but she was really not much of mother. Annabella hoped that Ada would not develop the insanity of her father. Ada was a very sickly child, developing a paralysis after a bout with measles.

Ada furthered her education under such scientists of her time, such as Michael Faraday and Sir David Brewster. She also knew Charles Dickens. But it was Charles Babbage, the father of computers, who really gave Ada her start in technology. Babbage is the father of computers. In 1837, he described the Analytical Machine, but he could never get it built. He did have a prototype for the difference machine, the precursor to the Analytical Machine. When Ada demonstrated an interest in this machine, he encouraged it.

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Babbage called Ada “The Enchantress of Number” after she translated notes about the Machine and how it worked. Based on this work, she is considered the first computer programmer. Sadly, Ada died all too early in her life, not from insanity as her mother had feared, but from uterine cancer. She was just 36. Imagine what Ada Lovelace could do with today’s technology.

Her legacy

England celebrates Ada Lovelace Day in October each year. More importantly, in her memory, the British Computer Society has begun to promote more awareness of women in computers and technology. One of the computer languages created for the United States Department of Defense was named “Ada” in her honor. Her contribution to science and math has not been ignored. She is a heroine who went beyond her position in her point in time. If you need inspiration to enter the STEM field, look at her life.


Dawn Brotherton is a Sr. Staff Writer at The American Genius with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. She is an experienced business writer with over 10 years of experience in SEO and content creation. Since 2017, she has earned $60K+ in grant writing for a local community center, which assists disadvantaged adults in the area.

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