Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ada Lovelace Day

Today is Ada Lovelace day!

WHO? Ada Lovelace is considered to be the world's first computer programmer - she wrote software for Charles Babbage's analytical machine, the first "computer." Unfortunately, the analytical machine was never completed, but her programs would still have worked. In fact, she was one of the first to see computers as more than just adding machines - envisioning that computers could even compose elaborate pieces of music one day.

So what? WHY does that give Ada a whole day to herself? Well... have you ever heard of Ada Lovelace? What about Henrietta Leavitt? Rosalind Franklin?

Probably not.

These women were all scientist & made major contributions to their fields (see above & below) - but did they get any recognition? Does anyone ever learn about them, except in passing reference to their male colleagues? Of course not, they were women!

So today is a day for recognizing women in science: a field where we're often ignored or unacknowledged - where a women's contribution is often attributed to her male colleagues' ideas - or a man's "interpretation" of her work is deemed most important.

We're important too, darn it!

Thankfully, "political correctness" is all the rage now - and gender equality falls within those boundaries. Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean women are getting paid the same amount as a man for doing the same job ... but it's getting better. Let's continue the positive trend - spread the word! Today is Ada Lovelace day!

Rosalind Franklin: her x-ray crystallography photographs were what clued Watson & Crick in that DNA was a double-stranded helix. They probably would never have figured out DNA's structure without it.

Henrietta Swan Leavitt: her work on the relationship between periodicity and luminosity of stars forever changed our view of the universe. Her variables allowed Edwin Hubble to measure distances in the universe & discover that other galaxies existed outside of ours (the Milky Way).

All 3 of these women died of cancer (and blood-letting in at least Ada's case) before their work was recognized.


nikid said...

Great Post!!! WOMEN RULE!

Cara said...

I remember C. Babbage! Well, I remember learning about him, anyway. We had a cat named Babbage. Lovelace would probably have been a better name for a cat.

Bloodletting is the current treatment for hemochromatosis, a white persons genetic disease that has only been recently understood. It's probably why is was a common treatment way back when. It worked very well for some people!

Amanda said...

blood-letting was all about humors - the cutting edge medical science back in the day. any condition was thought to be caused by an imbalance in these humors - blood, yellow bile, black bile & phlegm. so doctors would bleed you to restore the balance between the 4 (there were other remedies if one of the other humors was thought to be in surplus).

Amanda said...

seeing as how hemochromatosis is an iron overload (hence why bleeding would be beneficial) - it probably would have been quite common in those days when meat was almost all you ate. so it probably did make many people feel mildly better.