Celebrating Ada Lovelace Day last week was much Ada about nothing. Julian Sanchez says:
I love the idea behind Ada Lovelace Day: Celebrating the neglected contributions of women in science and technology in order to encourage young women to pursue careers in stereotypically male fields where, all too often, a “boys club” environment continues to reign. But I really wish this effort could pick a better mascot than Ada Lovelace, a figure of no real importance to the history of computing, whose fame rests largely on her one and only paper, which regurgitated and popularized the ideas of a man.
Lovelace is frequently hailed as the “first computer programmer,” which is true in approximately the same sense that William Shatner is the “first starship captain.” That is: Lovelace published an algorithm written for her by Charles Babbage, which could have computed a sequence of Bernoulli numbers on Babbage’s never-constructed Analytic Engine. The original ideas in the paper are Babbage’s, and the paper — a translation from French of an Italian mathematician’s lecture on the Engine, followed by a much lengthier series of explanatory notes — was written with his close collaboration.