Mathematics

Acknowledging females significant contribution to mathematics

Marie Howarth
Marie Howarth

Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Isaac Newton are prominent names among the STEM community that we have all heard and learned since childhood. But what about the women who have also shaped history?

While it’s essential to appreciate the influential impact of these men’s work, it is all too familiar that we often neglect females who have also made lasting and significant contributions to mathematics.

One woman in particular who made incredible contributions to computer programming in the early 1800s was Ada Lovelace. Lovelace is regarded as one of the first computer programmers of our time. Unfortunately, very few know this name.

In today’s modern society, women are continuing to enhance and innovate the STEM industry sometimes with little recognition.

However, organisations such as Women in Technology (WiT) are putting women first and creating a platform to champion their achievements.

WiT’s Vice President Marie Howarth said it’s imperative that we recognise the efforts women have made to STEM on a global scale.

“Gender bias often develops at very young age and can discourage young girls from pursuing a STEM education and career,” said Ms Howarth.

“At WiT, we represent women from all fields of science and technology and are all about helping them build the confidence, skills, recognition and networks they need to truly unlock their potential.”

Ms Howarth said women like Ada Lovelace had helped secure a seat ‘at the table’ for women in STEM.

Dr Calvin Irons, Co-founder of ORIGO Education, Australia’s leading mathematics company, recently researched three historical female mathematicians and their influence on mathematics development today.

“In the history of machine computing, there are only two computer languages named after people – Blaise Pascal and Ada Lovelace,” said Dr Irons.

“Interestingly, however, Lovelace’s contribution is much more significant than Pascal’s, and she is correctly described as the world’s first computer programmer.”

In 1833, Ada Lovelace met Charles Babbage, who shared his thoughts about a machine that could complete the tedious and often erroneous calculations in tables of data.

“Babbage thought a machine should be able to do the calculations. But Ada was the person that analysed and applied the mathematics that was necessary so that it could work,” said Dr Irons.

The machine was never built during the 1800s. But in 1990, the British Science museum made the Difference Engine based on Lovelace and Babbage’s work and, in their words, it “worked flawlessly”.

Unfortunately, Ada Lovelace died at a very young age, but Dr Irons said it is interesting to theorise what might have happened if she had been able to make further contributions to mathematics.

Source: ORIGO Education / Women in Technology (WiT)

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