Archive for March, 2009

SIGCSE Members Blog on Ada Lovelace Day!

March 26, 2009

I requested yesterday that SIGCSE members send me the url of blogs they wrote extolling women in technology. I thank the several members who responded.

You may also enjoy going through the list of links to blogs posted on the Ada Lovelace Day Site.  The blogs are categorized several ways — the list view gives  the person featured, the blog title and the blogger’s name.

My compiled list in reverse order of their receipt follows:

  1. Matt Jadud  featured his PhD supervisor, Sally Fincher.
  2. Tonya Groover compiled a list of women in PhD programs that motivate her: Sheena Lewis, Beth Adams, Deana Brown, Elodie Billionniere. Glenesha Johnson, Yolanda Rankin ,Tammara Massey, Wanda Eugene, and Shanee Dawkins
  3. Eugene Wallingford highlighted Adele Goldberg.
  4. Deepak Kumar pointed me to the Bryn Mawr CS home page and the linked blog by Kimberly Blessing that featured Amy (Biermann) Hughes and Sarah Hacker, two Bryn Mawr grads.
  5. John Dougherty blogged about his 2008 co chair Susan Rodger, appropriately on the SIGCSE 2008 Symposium blog.
  6. Alfred Thompson named several role models but featured his wife, Thelma.
  7. Doug Blank lauded the “next generation” of  women in his blog, singling out :  Dianna Xu and Xiaohang Quan.
  8. Ellen Walker pointed me to Annemeike Craig’s ACM-W blog telling the story of Sandy, an IT manager.
  9. Mark Guzdial told about three heroines in his Amazon blog: Janet Kolodner, Amy Bruckman and Barb Ericson.
  10. I blogged about one of the women I interviewed for the Computing Educator’s Oral history project, Tracy Camp.

Tracy Camp — Woman in Technology Model

March 24, 2009

Tracy Camp May 2007

Today is Ada Lovelace Day and I signed the pledge to blog about a woman in technology whom I admire.  I chose Tracy Camp, a professor of computer science at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado.

I have known Tracy for many years, having first met her when I participated in an NSF sponsored workshop on Ethics in Computing.  I interviewed Tracy as part of the Computing Educators Oral History Project.

Tracy is well-respected in her research field of mobile computing, has managed to select areas of research that have social significance, and has been honored for her teaching excellence.  In addition to this she has served as the chair of ACM-W, which is now a council of the Association for Computing Machinery dedicated to the support of women in computing careers.  Tracy currently serves as the treasurer of ACM/SIGMobile.  She is both a distinguished scientist in the ACM as well as one of their distinguished lecturers.  She developed a social networking tool for the attendees at the 2008 Grace Murray Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference and will serve as the program chair of the 2009 Hopper conference.

Tracy maintains a grounded life by integrating family (she has a husband and two young children) with her work and volunteer efforts. Although I often tease Tracy, encouraging her to say the “No” word more oftern, I admire her intelligence, energy, determination and grace.

Ada Lovelace

March 11, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day is March 24, 2009

A movement to promote female role models in technology is underfoot and you can help. But first some background, most of which I gleaned from Betty Toole’s marvelous biography, Ada, The Enchantress of Numbers, Prophet of the Computer Age.

Most women in computing have probably heard Augusta Ada Lovelace, (or Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace) referred to as the world’s first programmer. The more I learn about Ada’s remarkable life the more I am impressed by her intellectual acumen. Augusta Ada was born 10 December1815, the only legitimate child of the poet Lord Byron and his wife, Anne Isabella (Annabella) Milbanke, Lady Byron. Ada’s mother left Lord Byron in January of 1816 and received full custody of Ada as she was thereafter known. Ada never had a significant relationship with her famous father, but when Ada Lovelace died at age 36 she was buried next to him at her own request.

Lady Byron insisted that 5-year old Ada be tutored from dawn to dusk, hoping her daughter would be a mathematician or scientist, not a poet like her father. At age thirteen Ada suffered from measles and was confined to bed for three years, but her mother insisted that her rigorous mathematical education continue. Her mother made sure that Ada met the major inventors and scientists of the day. At age 17 she and her mother met with Charles Babbage. Both Ada and her mother were enthralled by his plans for the Difference Engine, a mechanical calculating machine, dubbed a “Thinking Machine” by Annabella.. She began then a lifelong correspondence with Babbage. She at that time began her correspondence with Mary Somerville, an influential mathematician and astronomer of the time. With her she discussed her ideas about Babbage’s work as well. Through her lifetime she corresponded with other luminaries such as Michael Faraday and Augustus de Morgan.

In 1835 she married William, Lord King who in 1838 became the Earl of Lovelace and she the Countess of Lovelace. In 1839 the young countess had given birth to three children, Byron, Annabella and Ralph. She like many women of the aristocracy, maintained three homes, supervised many servants and found it difficult to pursue her many intellectual interests.

Her mathematical studies progressed and she offered to aid Babbage. In 1843 Babbage had given a series of lectures on his Analytical Engine in Turin, Italy. An Italian engineer wrote an article summarizing the technical aspects of the Analytical Engine. Ada translated the article and added notes of her own. Babbage was impressed with these notes in which she put the Analytical Engine into a broader context. She viewed the potential of the machine as a general purpose device that could move beyond the processing of numbers into the processing of any information that could be represented symbolically. It was Babbage who gave Ada the sobriquet “Enchantress of Numbers”

Ada Lovelace died in 1851 following a common medical treatment, bloodletting, which was performed in an attempt to cure the cancer from which she was suffering. One of her last non-family visitors was Charles Dickens! Ada referred to her quest for knowledge as “Poetical Science” and her life is a beacon for us all.

The programing language Ada was named for her, and its 1995 reference manual is titled 1815, the year of her birth.

There are lots of intriguing sources about her life, ideas and family available. In addition to Tolle’s biography, you might enjoy Woolley’s The Bride of Science: Romance, Reason, and Byron’s Daughter. I strongly recommend the biographic film To Dream Tomorrow. I haven’t seen Conceiving Ada but seems like an interesting fictional piece. I enjoyed, Haunted Summer, a film about the travels of Lord Byron with Percy and Mary Shelley after separating from Annabella and Ada. The lovely little book, Scientists Anonymous by Patricia Fara has a short biography of Ada Lovelace, suitable for younger readers. Fara also contributed to a biographical piece on Ada broadcast on BBC.

Now to action. Ada Lovelace Day

If you’re a blogger and happy to write/video/podcast about one of your female technology heroes on 24th March 2009, please do join us in supporting the following fantastic initiative from Suw Charman-Anderson and sign-up to the Ada Lovelace Day Pledge:

I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire but only if 1,000 other people will do the same. — Suw Charman-Anders

This entry was first posted on  and was also posted  on the ACM-W blog with my permission.