Open Access Honors Program Thesis
Eugene Wallingfor, Honors Thesis Advisor
Ada Lovelace is a recognizable name in the field of computer science, but few people know and truly understand why. It is common knowledge that Ada Lovelace is known as the world’s first computer programmer. A simple Google search would also show that her contributions occurred in the mid-1800s. This is where any logical person may become confused and rightfully inquire how a person in the Victorian era has become so closely associated with modern computer science. The answer to that question is exactly as complicated and disputed as expected.
Ada Lovelace’s fame stems from her work with Charles Babbage and his plan for a calculating machine called the Analytical Engine. Lovelace studied mathematics which helped her translate and annotate a set of notes on the potential inner workings and metaphysical implications of Babbage’s machine. This was her only tangible addition to the world of mathematics and, while it is significant, it is extremely specific and does not quite satisfy the aforementioned question. Because of this, one might find themself curious about the evolution of Ada’s legacy and her more intangible contributions to today’s world of programming. One may even write an honors thesis on the topic.
Curiosity aside, the overall purpose of this research is to bring Ada Lovelace’s story to light by examining the questions of how and why her importance in computer science came to be. A crucial part of the answer to those questions has to do with Ada’s identity as a woman. This is relevant because STEM related fields, including computer science, are still behind in gender diversity. Currently, only about 20% of professionals in computer science related careers are female (“Women in Computer Science”). Ada Lovelace’s modern influence is strongly connected to this statistic. Her position as a role model for women in computer science is necessary; however, it is easy to simplify the story of an historical figure to fit a desired narrative, especially when they are the figurehead for an underrepresented group of people. Ada’s entire story deserves to be recognized in all its complexity and to be analyzed truthfully.Before that can be done, it’s important to understand where Ada’s story started.
Year of Submission
Department of Computer Science
University Honors Designation
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors
1 PDF file (18 pages)
©2021 Autumn Lauen
Lauen, Autumn, "The idolization of Ada Lovelace and its necessity" (2021). Honors Program Theses. 475.