29 November 2010

A WAVE OF SCIENCE—BUT WHERE'S ADA?


The seventh and latest installment in John Boswell's Symphony of Science. Great, as usual. Though surely he will manage to come up few more women thinkers next time? Twenty-first century, and all that.

(Ada Lovelace, first ever computer programmer.)

The entrenched refusal to acknowledge the many women, past and present, at the forefront of science led in 2009 to the declaration of March 24th as Ada Lovelace Day—an international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science. Lovelace is today recognized as the world's first computer programmer. From Finding Ada:

Ada Lovelace was one of the world’s first computer programmers, and one of the first people to see computers as more than just a machine for doing sums. She wrote programmes for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, a general-purpose computing machine, despite the fact that it was never built. She also wrote the very first description of a computer and of software.

From Rebecca Thomson at New Scientist's Culture Lab:

Today it's fairly well accepted that women are under-represented in both science and technology fields: for example just one in five of the UK's technology workforce are female.

But the negative nature of the debate, and the complaints raised within it, mean the considerable achievements of women who do work in the industry can slip under the radar. A recent piece by gadget magazine T3 neatly highlighted important contributions to the field made by women largely forgotten.
It included Mary Lou Jepsen, whose work on holographic video systems at the MIT Media Lab and in optics resulted in important developments in the fields.
One of her biggest achievements was her part in the One Laptop Per Child project, which delivered laptops to 1.5 million of the world's poorest children. She helped get the project off the ground by inventing display technology that is readable in sunlight, and working on the power system that made the laptops energy efficient.

Then there's this sadly enlightening piece in last week's The Observer: The Royal Society's Lost Women Scientists.

So how about a Wave of Ada segment to your next movement of the symphony, John Boswell?
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