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Ada Lovelace: First Computer Programmer and Hacker?

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 5

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Women in Engineering

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Erica Haugtvedt South Dakota School of Mines & Technology

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Dr. Erica Haugtvedt is an assistant professor of English and Humanities at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. She received her Ph.D. in British nineteenth-century literature from Ohio State University in 2015. Erica Haugtvedt works on Victorian popular fiction, transfictionality, seriality, and media history. Her publications include “The Victorian Serial Novel and Transfictional Character” (Victorian Studies (59.3: 2017)), “The Ethics of True Crime: Fictionality in Serial Season One” in The Serial Podcast and Storytelling in the Digital Age (Routledge, 2016), “Sweeney Todd as Victorian Transmedial Storyworld” and “The Sympathy of Suspense: Gaskell and Braddon’s Slow and Fast Sensation Fiction in Family Magazines” (both in Victorian Periodicals Review (49.1: 2016, 49.3: 2016)). Her current book project examines the dynamics of transfictional characters in the British long nineteenth century.

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Duane Lewis Abata South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

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Dr. Abata has worked in academia for over forty years at universities and with the Federal government around the country. He began his career at the University of Wisconsin, served as Associate Dean and Dean at Michigan Technological University and then at the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C. as program manager in the Engineering Directorate. From 2003 to 2004, Dr. Abata was President of the American Society for Engineering Education. Following his appointment at NSF he served as Dean of Engineering and Engineering Technology at Northern Arizona University and Dean of Engineering at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. Dr. Abata is currently a tenured full professor in mechanical engineering at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. His research work focuses in the areas of energy storage and combustion.

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Long before today’s pervasive digital computers, the first computer programmer and computer hacker was arguably Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (born in 1815 as Augusta Ada Byron, daughter of the famous poet Lord Byron). She captured the essence of Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, which was conceptualized by Babbage but was not constructed in his lifetime. An exceptional mathematician, in 1843 she wrote an algorithm to accompany Babbage’s Engine and hence is an important pioneer for women in Science and Engineering. Her contribution to calculate Bernoulli numbers with the Analytical Engine has since been successfully translated, with minor changes, to the C++ programming language. As a Victorian computer programmer, it is crucial to remember that she achieved her insights through translating between languages, people, disciplines, and between the imaginary and the real. In doing so, Lovelace was a woman of her time. This paper discusses how she accomplished this somewhat hidden achievement and suggests a video and discussion activity geared toward prompting undergraduates to reframe their origin stories for computer science to include women. In another paper, we discuss the details of her algorithm and present a working program for use as an assignment for students in beginning computer classes.

Haugtvedt, E., & Abata, D. L. (2021, July), Ada Lovelace: First Computer Programmer and Hacker? Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36646

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