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Ada Lovelace

Exeter celebrates life and works of world's first computer programmer

The University of Exeter will celebrate the life and work of the woman credited as being the world’s first computer programmer, during a special commemorative event.

Female academics and scholars from the University will shine the spotlight onto the achievements of Ada Lovelace during the special event, which forms part of the Sidmouth Science Festival.

The event will be held on Tuesday 14 October, to coincide with the international Ada Lovelace Day - a celebration of the achievements not just the life and works of the famed mathematician, but also women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). 

At 3pm on Tuesday, Ada Lovelace Day will take over Sidmouth Café Scientifique at the Cellar Bar in Kennaway House. The event will see Dr Rachel Freathy and Dr Helen Ryland along with Physics student Natalie Whitehead each speaking about their research which includes; neuropsychology, genetics and physics. Later in the evening, Dr Claire Belcher, a Senior Lecturer in Earth System Science, will look at the role that wildfires play on our planet.

Speaking before the event, Dr Belcher said;“What is nice about the Ada Lovelace story is that it seems a gender balanced team propelled early computing forwards well over 100 years ago and that it serves as nice inspiration for building gender equality in the sciences and beyond today."

The daughter of famed poet Lord Byron, Augusta Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace—better known as "Ada Lovelace"—was born in London on December 10, 1815.

In 1842, Ada was asked to translate notes taken by Italian mathematician Luigi Menabrea, taken during a lecture by Charles Babbage on a clockwork counting machine called the Analytical Engine. As well as translating the notes, Ada expanded on the original writings and, crucially, described an algorithm for the Analytical Engine to compute an established sequence of numbers.

She died of uterine cancer in 1852 aged just 36, and it was another century until she received recognition for her ground-breaking discoveries, when World War II codebreaker Alan Turing referenced her work.

The Ada Lovelace Day takes over Sidmouth Café Scientifique takes place from 3pm at Kennaway House, Sidmouth.  Dr Belcher’s talk begins at 7.30pm at the Norman Lockyer Observatory, Sidmouth. Tickets are free of charge for both events, and further details can be found at the Sidmouth Science Festival webpages.

Date: 13 October 2014

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