Celebrating Ada Lovelace Day With 10 Of Tech’s Most Influential Women

Happy Ada Lovelace Day all you women in science and mathematics! If you don’t know who Ada Lovelace is, hie thee to Wikipedia, or this very interesting little bio I ran across today, or the Ada Lovelace Day blog.

The short version is that Ada’s mother, Lady Byron (once married to poet Lord Byron), was not all that fond of her ex-husband, and saw to it that Ada received an education in mathematics and music, “to counter dangerous poetic tendencies.” This led to her interest in things scientific, and she called herself “an Analyst (& Metaphysician).”

Charles Babbage was a fan, and Ada’s correspondence with him is well worth a read if scientific history is of interest to you. Her most famous work is a translation of an article on Babbage’s Analytical Engine. She added notes of her own to said article that amounted to one of the first computer programs.

This day is for celebrating the contributions of not only the Countess of Lovelace, but all women in mathematics and science. To that end, LAPTOP raises a glass to the following women (in no particular order). These trailblazers in science and technology have influenced not only much of the software, websites, gadgets, and gizmos we use every day, but the technological future we’re all racing toward:

Are there any we missed? Tell us about the women in Math, Science, and Tech you admire in the comments below.

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  1. akatoys Says:

    Dr. Mary Lou Jepsen of Pixel Qi definitely ought to be on the list…

  2. Steve Bang Says:

    You missed Grace Hopper (http://gracehopper.org/2010/about/about-grace-hopper/), definitely more influential than many others on your list.

  3. Jim Freund Says:

    If I had to pick only two, they would be Lady Lovelace and Admiral Grace Hopper. Hopper conceptualized structured language which led to the development of COBOL; set the standards for FORTRAN; was a pioneer on UNIVAC, and (perhaps apocryphally) is often credited for developing the concept of e-mail and word processing in the early 50s. A Yankee, when she went into UNIVAC to see why the machine was down, she found a moth in the works. She called it a bug, which is why we still debug computers and software. Her trademark was to hand out a piece of wire just under a foot, and called it a term she she had coined — a nanosecond. (She did this on David Letterman who didn’t quite get her.) It was the length that light would travel in that time, and that became the measurement for computer instruction until she coined the pico-second.

  4. Robin Bectel Says:

    Its a great list. I’m surprised not to see Meg Whitman on it though its always hard to narrow things down. Women in Technology in DC wrote a book last fall profiling a decade of Women In Tech Award winners. http://bit.ly/bCHQb0 Its called No One Path, and it profiles some of these fabulous women and the path they took to the top. Great graduation gift for anyone coming out of college or high school.

  5. ADINSX Says:

    Grace Hopper is more important than any of those women on that list, including Ada Lovelace herself, however:

    “She called it a bug, which is why we still debug computers and software.”

    The term “Computer Bug” was already widely used, if you look at the picture of the computer log book you’ll see “First actual case of a bug being found” which obviously implies the term was already familiar.

    Thats a pretty terrible list of women scientists, considering half of them aren’t scientists

  6. K. T. Bradford Says:

    ADINSX, the list isn’t limited to scientists, it’s women in tech and science. We are a tech magazine, after all. And this list was compiled from a working list for our feature on the 25 most influential people in tech, which has a current events bias (and is why Grace Hopper doesn’t appear on it). But I’m glad people are bringing her up :)

  7. Steven D. TUrner Says:

    What about Ursula Burns, CEO at Xerox? She is the first African-American woman CEO to head a S&P 100 company. She is also the first woman to succeed another woman as head of a S&P 100 company.

  8. L Martin Johnson Pratt Says:

    Window Snyder – how could you leave her off the list…Windows isn’t your average security czar. As chief of security at Mozilla Foundation, the unconventional non-profit whose popular Web browser Firefox underwent a major facelift this week, Snyder cuts an unconventional swath. check out ‘Geek girl’ helps keep Mozilla safe in scary times’ on USAToday dot com.

  9. Jim Freund Says:

    @ ADINSX: Thanks for debunking the moth myth, though I’m disappointed to learn the truth.

    @ K T Bradford: I’d still argue for Admiral Grace being within the top 25. One of the reasons her name wasn’t known better (aside from her being a woman) is that so much of her work was simply attributed to ‘something developed by the Navy’ or a similar generic statement. The world would be a dramatically different place without her, not to mention the tech world.

  10. Jim Freund Says:

    @ K T Bradford: Sorry — missed your statement that it’s about current events, so no Grace.

    I just love promoting her, given how undersung she is.

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