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Herstory

The women of the United Kingdom

All these women are noteworthy for their actions and discoveries. In this course, we will dive deeper into the four women from the collage: Ada Lovelace, Joan Clarke, Harriet Tubman and Jane Cooke Wright. We will re-discover them in the sense that we will take a look at their whole lives.

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)
Ada Lovelace was the daughter of Lord Byron, a very famous English poet. Lovelace was herself a writer and a mathematician. She belonged to a high class of society, and she was talented in her fields of interest. Due to her privileges, Lovelace had the opportunity to meet and gain knowledge from famous author Charles Dickens and scientists such as Charles Babbage. In turn, this helped her expand and further her education.

Impact
Working alongside Charles Babbage, Lovelace wrote her most notable work. Babbage, who is called “the father of computers”, proposed the first Analytical Engine (a computer for calculation). In 1843, a lecture given by Babbage was translated* into English by Lovelace who expanded on the ideas and developed further theories on the Analytical Engine. In the notes, Lovelace wrote an algorithm, the first computer programme, that was not for pure calculation. This invention was in of itself revolutionary. 

*the lecture was given in Italy, transcribed to French and then translated back into English.

Joan Clarke (1917-1996)
Joan Clarke graduated as an undergraduate mathematician with honours at Newnham College, Cambridge, but she was denied a full degree because she was a woman. Her talent was discovered by Gordon Welchman (mathematician) and recruited as a clerical at Bletchley Park. Bletchley Park was a facility established in 1939 only dedicated to breaking the German Enigma Code, code used by Germans during WWII. 

 

Impact
At Bletchley Park, Clarke’s role became that of a cryptologist, science of breaking codes and ciphers. Alongside Welchman and Alan Turing (mathematician), she helped develop the machines used to break German codes during the war, avoiding attacks from Germany. Despite her contribution, she was not allowed to advance in her career because of her gender, and she was also paid less than the men. It was only after the war that Clarke could work for the GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) and later dedicated her life to researching coinage (currency).