Ada Lovelace Day

Since so much of the tech world is dominated by men, and I am raising a daughter with dreams of a future in which women can not only compete in male-dominated fields but eventually supplant them, I looked forward to participating in Ada Lovelace Day. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that in considering the day’s challenge--to write about a pioneering woman in technology--no names immediately sprang to mind.

The Ada Project changed that. Dedicated to providing information and resources related to women in computing, the site served up 17 names from the 19th-21st centuries. These included folks ranging from Ada herself, whose plan in the 1840s for a “calculating engine” that would work with Bernoulli numbers led to what is now regarded as the first computer program (she also anticipated a machine that would be used to produce graphics and compose music), to modern tech company CEOs like Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina.

I ended up choosing a woman whose surname happens to be similar to mine. Rósa Péter was born in 1905 and studied mathematics at Loránd Eötvös University in Budapest. After abandoning her initial interest in number theory when she discovered her early results had already been proven, Rósa ditched the field entirely to write poetry.

She re-entered the math fray in 1930 when a colleague suggested that she examine the work of Gödel, and later became a founder of recursive function theory. She wrote two books and over 50 papers on the subject, and continued to apply her theory to computers until she passed away in 1977, a year after the release of her seminal book, “Recursive Functions in Computer Theory.”

Péter is also noted for her dedication to making the public more aware of mathematics. She was especially concerned about the education of female students. It’s hard to say what such pioneers would think about our world of laptops, cell phones and iPods. But thanks to the solid mathematical foundations these things were built upon and a growing contingent of female mathematicians, my daughter will know and participate in a future that only visionaries like Péter dare to dream of.

No comments: