Inspiring Women in Tech: Ada Lovelace, first Computer Programmer

Another worthy addition to our blog series on Inspirational Women in Tech, today we focus on Ada Lovelace – as today is  Ada Lovelace Day, which was started in Britain in 2009 as part of #DayoftheGirl. At Akoni we are inspired by women in technology and hope to see more women enter the sector drive innovation – just as she did.

Rejected at birth by her father, the famous poet, Lord Byron, who was only interested in being a father to a son, the one-month-old Augusta Ada Byron was whisked away to her maternal grandmother’s home in Kirkby Mallory, by her mother, Anne Isabella Milbanke.

There, she was largely brought up by her maternal grandmother, Lady Milbanke, who doted on her. The young Lovelace was encouraged to pursue her love of science and mathematics by her mother, as it countered the “insanity” that she had potentially inherited from father.

The young child was fragile, even suffering a bout of measles which left her paralysed and bedridden for an extended period of time. During her recovery period, the young Ada decided that she wanted to invent a way of flying. The twelve year old Ada went about this task with a clear and systematic plan. She investigated the construction of wings, studying the anatomy of birds, exploring different materials (oilsilk, wires and feathers) to build these out of – drawing on her mathematical skills to calculate the right proportions. Steam would be used in the final stage. Ada produced a fully illustrated book, “Flyology” which mapped out the entire project, illustrating her findings and inventions with plates. Perhaps she told Babbage about this production – he used to affectionately refer to her as “Lady Fairy”. She was clearly an individual, not afraid to go against the grain from the start.

Her tutors in mathematics and science included some of the best brain around – William Frend, William King, Augustus De Morgan and Mary Somerville. De Morgan said that she was “an original mathematical investigator, perhaps of first-rate eminence“. It was Mary Somerville, who became a great friend to Ada, that introduced her to Charles Babbage, a mathematician, philosopher, mechanical engineer, inventor of the concept of a programmable computer.

Babbage introduced her to his prototype machine – the Difference Engine, which entranced her. Impressed by Lovelace’s mathematical and analytical abilities, he asked her to translate the Italian mathematician Luigi Menabrea’s article on his latest machine – his Analytical Engine.

In her extensive notes on the article, Lovelace emphasised the difference between this machine and previous calculating machines – regarding this latest machine as a breakthrough, with massive potential because of its ability to be programmed to solve problems of any complexity.

Her notes also included, in great detail, a method for calculating a sequence of Bernoulli numbers using the Analytical Engine – which could have run correctly if it had been built. Based on this algorithm, Ada Lovelace is now widely considered the first computer programmer, and her method is recognised as the world’s first computer programme.

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Portrait of Ada by Margaret Sarah Carpenter 1836

Lovelace held imagination and intuition in high regard, integrating them into her scientific and mathematical explorations and concepts. Her “poetical science” led her to ask human questions – “basic assumptions” about the Analytical Engine and future inventions – how society and individuals would relate to technology as a tool.  She valued metaphysics as much as mathematics, viewing both as tools for exploring “the unseen worlds around us”.

The remarkable Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace (née Byron), died of uterine cancer in 1852 at the age of 36, leaving behind three children and her husband, William King-Noel, 1st Earl of Lovelace. 

Lovelace’s astonishing intelligence, her original thought and the fact that she accomplished so much in an era when women were not given much credibility or voice was remarkable. Her self-belief from an early age is exactly what many young girls need more of today – a value that the Akoniteam admire and encourage.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

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Inspiring Women in Tech Series #2: Gemma Godfrey

Gemma Godfrey is a woman who has it all. She’s got fans across the world who hang on her every word across various media platforms for the latest investment advice; great smile, great hair (which has it’s own Twitter account); a husband who is a film producer and a beautiful son, who is a regular star feature in her Instagram posts. Now she also has a FinTech startup called Moo.la, which was (no surprise here) recently named as one of the top ten FinTech companies to watch this year.

Godfrey started out at Goldman Sachs as an intern, worked her way up through the corporate world, working for GAM as a Fund Manager, as Chairman of the Investment Committee at Credo Capital and Head of Investment Strategy for Brooks Macdonald – all the while contributing on Sky Business News, CNBC, the BBC and writing for Huffington Post, The Telegraph and The Times and various other publications. She was also Founder and Editor for The Investment Insight, giving online insight into the how’s, who’s, when’s and why’s of investing for five years. She is Board Advisor to Templars and CLU School of Management.

Godfrey was named among the “savviest” on Wall Street by the Wall Street Journal, the City of London’s “Commentator of the Year”, and most popular Business Influencer on social media in the New York Shorty Awards in 2014.

You can see why she’s popular – just take the topic of her December 2013 TEDxWallStreet talk, entitled How to Kiss. “Today I’m going to teach you to kiss. At work. On TV. In life or death situations. I’m going to show you how. And then when we go our separate ways you’re going to kiss with other people more than you’ve ever done before!”

It was a business talk, of course. Kiss stood for Kiss was Keep It Simple Stupid, by the way.

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Gemma Godfrey speaking at TEDxWallStreet, 13 December, 2013: “How To Kiss”

Watch here : Gemma Godfrey – TEDxWallStreet, 13 Dec 2013

Her advice for tomorrow’s leaders? In an article by Marisa Nadolny in her article, Godfrey’s Law of Success: Follow your Passion, the answer is,“Follow your passion, and success will come more naturally… People try to funnel themselves into what they think is an appropriate place,” she explains, “but it’s better to follow what they’re good at. A lot of people will force themselves to do something they think they should do, with little success.”

One of last week’s StrongJones blogs Inspiring Women in Tech Series #1: Lady Judge buys into Tech Startup featured British and American boardroom lioness, Lady Barbara Judge, CBE, who said that she regretted not having studied maths or science at University, as she felt that she had been playing catchup her whole life. Lucky for Godfrey, her passion was science. “Having a scientific background, you’re used to taking the complicated and complex and presenting it in an accessible way,” says Godfrey. Possibly one of her most valuable skills throughout her career.

Godfrey says it was a “pure love of the subject” that fuelled her interest in physics at a young age. She credits her father with cultivating her scientific curiosity – she holds a degree in Quantum Physics from the University of Leeds.

Selected by the BBC as one of the world’s Top 100 Women, the unstoppable Godfrey was profiled by the Sunday Times on the ascent of women in the boardroom – something that is under the spotlight right now, in the British banking and finance industries.

Jayne-Anne Gadhia, CEO of Virgin Money, was asked by the then Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Harriett Baldwin, to lead a Review focussing on the representation of women in senior managerial roles in the Financial Services industry. When the Review was released in March this year, it showed that in the UK, “New Financial’s sample of 200 firms active in UK Financial Services showed an average of 23% female representation on Boards, but only 14% on Executive Committees. Only 50% of women, compared to 70% of men believe they have an equal opportunity to advance regardless of their personal characteristics or circumstances.” Pretty appalling stuff.

Courageous women like Gemma Godfrey are pure gold. We couldn’t have a more inspiring person – who literally seems to fizz with eneregy and passion – to shakeup things, and spur on the aspiring FinTech women out there.

“The big thing that motivates me, is this feeling that you want to have an impact, you want to make a difference,” says Gemma, “I’ve always felt like that, wanting to work in smaller teams and be able to actually shape something. … I’ve realised I’ve spent the last few years waiting for somebody else to do this, and I thought I would join them! But there aren’t really that many people out there who’re doing this. This is a great opportunity to do it myself.” @gcgodfrey

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

 

 

 

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