A New Book about the Woman Who Introduced the World to Computers

Posted on: 04/29/2020 Back to all blog posts

When most people think of computer innovation, they think of men like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg. But one of the first people to conceptualize what computers could do was a woman named Ada Lovelace.

Lovelace was the daughter of the famous poet Lord Byron, but that was not what she would be known for. Her mother did not want her growing up to be like her father, so she made sure that her daughter got plenty of math in her academic lessons. Lovelace took to math immediately. She enjoyed the challenge of it, and she was good at it. And years later, when she met and befriended a man who conceptualized a machine that would have been the first computer, she had enough mathematical knowledge not only to understand it but to imagine what the possibilities for it might be. She included this information in extensive notes that she added to a description of the machine, and her notes were ultimately more significant than the description itself. Unfortunately, the machine was never built, and Lovelace’s ideas were not realized.

But about a hundred years later, women picked up the torch that Lovelace had lit and carried it forward. The women who worked on the first computers for the U.S. government during World War II and soon after were the first computer programmers and the first software engineers (they were the women profiled in the recent film Hidden Figures). The computer technology that we enjoy today is in large part the result of their efforts, and it is built on Ada Lovelace’s digital legacy.

At Royal Fireworks Press, we enjoy stories that shine a light on those people who have used their genius and their hard work to change the world for the better, and we are pleased to announce the publication of Ada Lovelace: Programming the Future. This book joins three others in our popular Mathematical Lives series, all of which tell the story of a mathematician (or two) who helped to shape mathematics into what we know today. The books aren’t simply biographies, however; they include a special section at the end that allows readers to try out some of the math themselves. Even for children who don’t feel adept at math, these engaging books tell excellent stories of important people whose contributions often reached well beyond mathematics.

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