07
Oct
11

Ada Lovelace: This One’s for the Ladies

Today is Ada Lovelace Day. For those of you not familiar with the Countess of Lovelace, she was the only child of Lord Byron and is widely credited with being the world’s first computer programmer.

Ada Lovelace, Queen of the Nerds

There’s a large gender disparity in the video game industry. Likewise, there’s a large gender disparity in computer programming. While I’m fairly certain nobody would argue the truth of those statements, there’s quite a bit of controversy surrounding what to do about this and whether it is even a bad thing. I’m not going to attempt to address any of those issues today. Instead, I’m going to point out a few ladies in engineering who have influenced my life (positively!), and who I consider role models in my current career path.

Grace Hopper

One cannot talk about women in programming without mentioning Grace Hopper, the Vassar mathematics professor who took a leave of absence to serve in World War II. Most notably, she developed the first compiler: A. One of her programming languages, FLOW-MATIC, was extended to create COBOL. The quote “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than to get permission” is generally attributed to her, and there’s an annual conference for women in computing named after her.


Barbara Liskov

Professor Liskov is most famous for the Liskov Substitution Principle, a key element of object-oriented programming. She is a professor at MIT, developer of the programming language CLU, and was one of the first women to get a PhD in Computer Science (from Stanford). She also won a Turing prize and wrote three books, one of which I know for a fact is pretty rad.

 

Limor Fried

I met Limor in college (that’s right, I’m not above a name-drop), and she is an electrical engineer with a palpable energy. She’s brilliant, passionate, and weird. She’s received awards from the EFF and she owns her own business, Adafruit Industries, which sells DIY electronics kits and parts that make electrical engineering fun and accessible. Also, she was the first female engineer on the cover of Wired! I find her downright inspirational.

 

Eleanor Lederer

Yes, this is my mother. And I know I said engineers, and she’s a doctor, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention her. (I really should mention my father as well, seeing as he actually is an engineer, but like I said, this one’s for the ladies.) I was fairly oblivious as a child, but growing up with a mother who had a career she was passionate about (and also being a giant nerd with few friends), it didn’t even occur to me until college that many of the other kids I knew, their mothers didn’t work. It didn’t even enter into my head that I might graduate college and not pursue my dreams. So, good work, Mama.

This was a long one, I know, and thanks for sticking it out. (At least it had pictures, right?) I also want to give a big shout out to programs like Dot Diva that try to make computer science and engineering more appealing to girls in middle school and high school. Let’s keep changing the world, ladies.

 

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About

My name is Maitland Lederer, and I’m a video game developer. I learn stuff you probably already knew and have opinions you've probably already heard. I figured it might be a good idea for me to start writing down the stuff I've learned so I don't have to relearn it. It's not, like, great wisdom or anything. It's just things I happened to learn, usually today.

Header photo by D Sharon Pruitt, used under a Creative Commons License.


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