Celebrating Ada

It’s Ada Lovelace Day, celebrating women as engineers, scientists, technologists and mathematicians.

I’m an arts, humanities and social sciences person who ended up working in technology really, so I feel a bit cheeky joining in. But I’ve watched the day grow every year so thought I’d join in this time.

I remember at school being taken to a WISE day and I have a very vivid memory of an animation of the algorithm that creates the pattern of a fern leaf. I never felt engaged with science at school but I did like maths. I got an A at GCSE but when I asked my maths teacher if I should do maths A Level he said I’d probably do well but I might not like it. Looking back, that seems odd. Don’t get me started on my computer teacher. But I remember the awe of watching that fern leaf appear and its only now that I’m starting to address my alienation from the world of numbers and bring myself back to it. So first of all: thank you WISE.

I love the stories about Diane Fossey’s work with gorillas, and a few years ago started to read about other women primatologists. Theirs is an interesting story. This extract from the wikipedia page on Leakey’s Angels describes it:

Leakey’s Angels is a relatively recent name given to three women sent by archaeologist Louis Leakey to study primates in their natural environments. The three are Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and BirutÄ— Galdikas. They studied chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans respectively.

I read somewhere how it’s no coincidence that these were strong women who managed to get close to the groups of wild primates, to observe and understand, and to create strong bonds. Each of them were passionate scientists who dedicated themselves to an almost anthropological practice. Each of them pushed forward our understanding of the higher apes. So thank you Goodall, Fossey and Galdikas.

Next up: Florence Nightingale. She may not have invented pie charts but but “she may have been the first to use them for persuading people of the need for change” paper by Hugh Small,1998. Quite right too – sometimes the presentation is as important as the facts when it comes to influencing decisions. Thank you Florence Nightingale.

Now on to TV presenters. My favourite academic presenter is Kathy Sykes. Really compelling in the way she presents, authentic and engaging, I really enjoy her programmes. I once said something fawningly incomprehensible to her at an event in York. Sorry about that, Kathy Sykes.

Closer to home: my mother, Sue Thomas, cyberspace historian and technology early adopter. Thanks, mum.

In my work world, it’s hard to know where to start! Technologists, information scientists, project managers and experts with specialisms that overlap with technology: it’s a multidisciplinary field. Great women I work closely with: Rachel Bruce, Lorna Campbell, Sheila McNeill, Jackie Carter, Sarah Currier, Laura Shaw, Suzanne Hardy, Lou McGill, Naomi Korn … women I’ve met briefly and am in awe of, like Cathy Casserly and Frances Pinter … and women I hope to meet one day, like Audrey Watters, Cathy Davidson and Heather Piwowar. I’m lucky to work in a field with so many excellent role models and colleagues.

I’m bound to have forgotten people so I expect I’ll be editing this several times!