I’m just in the nick of time to blog about a woman I admire in technology or science for Ada Lovelace Day. Last year was the first Ada Lovelace Day, so now it’s just a matter of spreading the word and making it a Big Thing for years to come. Granted, it’s not quite as exciting as Talk Like a Pirate Day, but its purpose is as important as Blog Action Day. It’s meant to open up a dialogue and bring awareness to something meaningful.
Which I guess means I will refrain from posting a LOLcat.
The day is named after Ada Lovelace, a 19th century geek girl who oozed mathy intelligence. If she’d lived longer than 36, I’m certain that her name would be more prominent and we would already have jetpacks and such in 2010 because the future would have experienced a speedier onset. She was a friend of Charles Babbage, who designed (but did not build) an Analytical Engine—what is considered the first computer. Ada created extensive notes while translating a memoir related to the machine that effectively made her the first-ever computer programmer. So I agree with the people behind Ada Lovelace Day: she’s worth honoring in this way!
Right. So I’ve chosen Marie Sklodowska Curie as the woman I will honor in honor of ALD. I probably should pick someone who is still alive and deserves credit, but Marie Curie was the first to come to mind… mostly because I was thinking along the lines of a historical female heroine and I happened to do a report on her in second grade. I think she also contributed to my interest in being a scientist (without the dying from radiation exposure part).
(I was in the “gifted and talented” program at a public elementary school, which meant that I attended 1st-5th grade with roughly the same group of kids, and we did all sorts of projects and presentations that would contribute to our overall geekiness in later years. I think we could pick any important historical figure for the one project I’m thinking of. I researched and wrote a paper which I then read aloud to my class—from behind a backlit bedsheet that created a live shadow performance. My crowning achievement for the project was a construction paper rack of test tubes that I cut out and taped to the bedsheet so it would look like I was speaking from an actual chemistry lab. Uh, was I ever not a nerd?)
Another reason I’m choosing Marie Curie, aside from her well-known research into radioactivity—a word she and her husband coined, according to Wikipedia—is her contribution to what might now be considered an open source project or mindset.
In an unusual decision, Marie Skłodowska–Curie intentionally refrained from patenting the radium-isolation process, so that the scientific community could do research unhindered.
And also, this kickass little fact makes her even cooler.
Due to their levels of radioactivity, her papers from the 1890s are considered too dangerous to handle. Even her cookbook is highly radioactive.
That’s right, boys. Too dangerous to handle.
Despite the tragic reality that her studies in radioactivity led to an early death, I am thoroughly delighted by the juxstaposition of a domestic symbol next to Dangerous Science. That’s very “geek girl” to me.
Marie contributed in a big way to science and technology and is very deserving of a blog post mostly dedicated to her.. She achieved more than most can even dream of achieving in a half-life… har har!