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Brainy Ladies

Here I will compile my list of female role-models, women who broke barriers, studied math, science, engineering, and physics.  They are intelligent, innovative, fearless, and willing to take on challenges. They are brainy ladies.  They inspire me.

Grace Murray Hopper

Grace Hopper was a computer scientist and also a US Naval Officer born in 1906 in New York City.  She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Mathematics and Physics, and a PhD in Mathematics.  In 1943 she was sworn into the US Naval Reserve.  She trained at the Naval Reserve Midshipman’s School, where she graduated first in her class.  While serving in the Navy, she worked with Howard H. Aitken as a programmer on the Mark I computer.

She developed the computer programming language COBOL, which was the first to be close to the English language, as opposed to machine code or assembly language.

Some other interesting things about her:

  • in 1969 she won the first  “man of the year” award from the Data Processing Management Association
  • She has a US Navy warship named after her: the USS Hopper
  • She is credited with bringing the term ‘computer bug’ to popularity after finding a moth stuck in a relay in the Mark II computer.
  • She also famously said “It is easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to get permission”.

Ada Lovelace

Ada Byron was born in 1815 during a brief marriage between Lord Byron (the poet) and Anne Isabelle Milbanke.  Her father left the marriage and moved to France soon after her birth, and never knew his daughter.  Ada was tutored in mathematics and music from a very young age, and showed remarkable aptitude, particularly in mathematics.

Ada met Charles Babbage in 1833.  Charles Babbage was a mathematician and designer of the very first computing machine (called the Analytical Engine).  Ada is widely credited with being the first person to write a computer program.  She wrote a detailed method for calculating the Bernoulli sequence of numbers that could have been solved had the Analytical Engine been complete.  It is also believed that she may have suggested the use of punched cards for Babbage’s machine, since she had a full understanding of the Jacquard’s Loom, which used punched cards in its operation.

Ada called herself an Analyst & Metaphysician, and was in a relatively unusual position for a nobewoman of her time.  It was fairly common for wealthy men to spend their time studying botany or geology or other sciences, but noblewomen were generally discouraged from pursuing similar interests.

In 1835, Ada married William King, and three years later he inherited a noble title.  From then on, the two were called the Earl and Countess of Lovelace. Ada Lovelace died of cancer in 1852.

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