Dear Ada Lovelace,
I first saw your name in a corner of my computer science textbook, packed between the likes of Alan Turing and Bill Gates. I’d only just recognised my love for programming, but even then, seeing a woman’s name amongst the many men piqued my interest. You may not have set off my love for computers, but, Ada, you’ve certainly been an inspiration through my journey in learning about them.
Maybe that’s why I’ve always found it unfair that the world tends to forget about you. They know your father, Lord Byron, whose work is a constant in English and History textbooks. They know of your colleague, Charles Babbage — “the father of the computer” and credit him for modern technology. They forget, though, that it was you who recognised the endless possibilities of Babbage’s inventions. That you published the first ever algorithm to be implemented on a computer and predicted the potential of computers in solving more than just mathematical equations. Modern life as we know, simply wouldn’t have been possible without you.
And it doesn’t end at that — your dedication to your work through health and sickness continues to inspire me. Your deep understanding of mathematics and science has left me in awe. You raised three children, managed your responsibilities as a Countess and still achieved so much. You are everything that I am not, yet show me exactly what I can be. You’re proof that hard work and passion can get you anywhere, even when those closest to you seem to be saying otherwise.
Ada, they call you the first programmer and, for a girl entering a stream that is still dominated by men, that will always mean the world to me.
For, though I know a hundred other girls who share my passion for science and computers, there are a million more who are held back by society even today. Where your mother hired tutors for you, most teach their daughters to prioritise household chores over education. Where your husband supported you from the very beginning, many men put women down and discourage their independence. I was lucky as I never had to fight for my right to pursue STEM. Most girls, however, are still denied the freedom to learn.
It’s not just the girls who suffer; I know you loved both arts and sciences, and it’ll dishearten you to know that children are forced to decide between the two at a young age. There are biases on how one stream is better than the other, and this has resulted in a society that is both disconnected and distant. We no longer know how to appreciate and respect subjects that aren’t ours, nor do we know how to find connections between them. You had found a balance between mathematics and literature, Ada, but few do anymore.
I opened my letter by saying that it saddens me to say that you’ve almost been forgotten by modern society; this is because I believe that you could inspire a million other people like me. Maybe, if everyone knew your name, more girls would be inspired to follow in your footsteps and, maybe, we’d recognise the need for a world that isn’t separated by the barriers of streams and subjects.
While I cannot change the years of history that buried your name, I promise to share the passion and drive that you inspired in me. Although I cannot correct years of damage caused by a terrible education system, I promise to encourage my siblings and juniors to tear down the walls that distinguish between science, commerce and art. The world has progressed little in the two hundred years since your algorithm, but I promise you that in the next two hundred years, we’ll become a world you would be proud of.
A girl who wants to crack the code
Written by Naintara Singh for MTTN
Artwork by Shreya Bangar