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Our Time Is Now: International Day of the Girl3 min read

On International Day of the Girl (IDG) and Ada Lovelace Day (ALD), I’d love to quickly share the story of a woman who broke cliches around women in STEM before the word STEM even came about.

Before we go there, are you curious about how this day came to be? On October 11, 2022, we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the International Day of the Girl (IDG). It all started at the World Conference on Women in Beijing, where countries unanimously adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action–an action advancing the rights of not just women, but girls. In 2011, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare the International Day of the Girl Child. The Ada Lovelace Day is celebrated on the second Tuesday of every October.

Now that you know, gather around and listen to the story of Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852). Just as offhand information, she was also the daughter of the famed romantic poet Lord Byron, though that’s not why the world cares for her.

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An English mathematician and writer, famous for her work on Charles Babbage’s (Father of the Computer) proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, she was the first to recognize that the machine had applications beyond pure calculation and published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by the machine.

Not surprisingly, she is often regarded as the first computer programmer. She also discovered the first computer bug in Babbage’s work. Cool right? Babbage called her “Enchantress of Numbers”, a more elaborate phrase for being cool.

Lovelace’s Diagram from ‘Note G’, the first published computer algorithm

Swanky SWEs (Software Engineers) can thank her today for their jobs.  

As a child, she studied the anatomy of birds, specifically the proportions of their wings and body, to be able to fly and decided to write a book, Flyology. This is long before the Wright Brothers were even born. Her final step was to integrate steam with “the art of flying”. Lofty goals. Does this remind you of what you wanted to be when you grew up? Are you somewhere close right now?

Listen to Walter Isaacson’s discussion about Ada Lovelace’s life and impact on scientific computing at the World Science Festival and a quick personal story presented by the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET).

Ada died of cancer at age 37. In her brief life, she remained a dedicated student, overcame the void of being raised without her parents, looked for poetry in sciences, made a name for herself despite her father’s immense success, and translated scientific papers from many languages, sometimes adding inspiring ideas in the form of notes that tended to be longer than the paper itself. In search of beauty, she dubbed her work “poetical science”.

Consider this a nudge to all the women in the Stern community. Go to whichever field you want and raise fire. Anybody can do anything at any time. Our time is now!

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