Ada Lovelace Day | Emmy Noether, Mathematician

October 14, 2014 · · Posted by Greg Lloyd

Ada Lovelace Day celebratesImage the contributions of women in science and technology, follow @FindingAda for news and events. This year I've chosen to write about mathematician Amalie "Emmy" Noether. At the time of her death in April 1935, she was described by Pavel Alexandrov, Albert Einstein, Herman Weyl, Norbert Weiner and others as the most important woman in the history of mathematics. Noether’s First Theorem is a fundamental tool of modern physics and the calculus of variations: every symmetry corresponds to a conservation law. "It was her work in the theory of invariants which led to formulations for several concepts of Einstein's general theory of relativity." [J J O'Connor and E F Robertson, 1997]. Of her later work, Nathan Jacobson said: "The development of abstract algebra, which is one of the most distinctive innovations of twentieth century mathematics, is largely due to her – in published papers, in lectures, and in personal influence on her contemporaries." Einstein wrote Noether's obituary in the New York Times, May 5, 1935:

"Within the past few days a distinguished mathematician, Professor Emmy Noether, formerly connected with the University of Göttingen and for the past two years at Bryn Mawr College, died in her fifty-third year. In the judgment of the most competent living mathematicians, Fräulein Noether was the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began. In the realm of algebra, in which the most gifted mathematicians have been busy for centuries, she discovered methods which have proved of enormous importance in the development of the present-day younger generation of mathematicians. Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas. One seeks the most general ideas of operation which will bring together in simple, logical and unified form the largest possible circle of formal relationships. In this effort toward logical beauty spiritual formulas are discovered necessary for the deeper penetration into the laws of nature.

Born in a Jewish family distinguished for the love of learning, Emmy Noether, who, in spite of the efforts of the great Göttingen mathematician, Hilbert, never reached the academic standing due her in her own country, none the less surrounded herself with a group of students and investigators at Göttingen, who have already become distinguished as teachers and investigators. Her unselfish, significant work over a period of many years was rewarded by the new rulers of Germany with a dismissal, which cost her the means of maintaining her simple life and the opportunity to carry on her mathematical studies. Farsighted friends of science in this country were fortunately able to make such arrangements at Bryn Mawr College and at Princeton that she found in America up to the day of her death not only colleagues who esteemed her friendship but grateful pupils whose enthusiasm made her last years the happiest and perhaps the most fruitful of her entire career."

Princeton University, May 1, 1935

In The Most Important Mathematician You've Never Heard Of Dr Dave Goldberg summarized Fräulein Noether’s life, her academic struggles - championed by Göttingen mathematicians David Hilbert and Felix Klein - and contributions to the foundations of modern physics.

"Hilbert and Noether skirted the rules by listing Hilbert as a course instructor and then having Noether as the perennial guest lecturer, though this didn't extend to getting Noether any sort of paycheck. It wasn't until 1922 that the Prussian Minister for Science, Art and Public Education gave her any sort of official title or pay at all, and even then only a pittance. As Hilbert described it in his memorial address for Emmy Noether:

When I was called permanently to Göttingen in 1930, I earnestly tried to obtain from the Ministerium a better position for her, because I was ashamed to occupy such a preferred position beside her whom I knew to be my superior as a mathematician in many respects. I did not succeed. . . . Tradition, prejudice, external considerations, weighted the balance against her scientific merits and scientific greatness, by that time denied by no one.

In all events, bringing her to Göttingen turned out to be an incredibly good idea. Almost immediately upon her arrival, Noether derived what's become known as Noether's 1st Theorem and by 1918 had cleaned it up enough for public consumption. And this is where we pick up the physics part of the story."

Fräulein Noether’s name and contributions to mathematics will live forever, despite the obstacles she had to overcome as a mathematical genius of the first rank - who happened to be a woman.

No woman should require the endorsement of mathematical legends like Hilbert, Klein, Einstein, Weyl, and Weiner to pursue and excel in the mathematical, scientific, or other career they love. We need every Fräulein Noether born in whatever place or circumstance, and need to support and encourage all who are inspired by her work and example.

Update See Marie Curie [ and Emmy Noether ] cartoon by xkcd "You don't become great by trying to be great. You become great by wanting to do something, and then doing it so hard that you become great in the process. So don't try to be the next me, Noether, or Meitner. Just remember that if you want to do this stuff, you're not alone." via @ValdisKrebs

More Finding Ada Blog Posts

Ada icon by Sidney Padua From the Thrilling Adventures of Babbage & Lovelace for your iPad (free). Enjoy Babbage and Lovelace adventures, backstory and more on Sydney Padua's 2D Goggles Web page.

Ada Lovelace Day | Marissa Ann Mayer, Software Engineer, Product Manager, and Executive

October 15, 2013 · · Posted by Greg Lloyd

Ada Lovelace Day celebratesImage the contributions of women in science and technology, follow @FindingAda for news and events. This year I've chosen to write about Marissa Ann Mayer Software Engineer, Product Manager, and Executive, currently President and CEO of Yahoo! Over her career Ms Mayer earned exceptional recognition for Computer Science teaching (while working for her Stanford degrees), software engineering, design, product management, and her executive skills. Ms Mayer joined Google as employee number twenty in 2009 and played an instrumental role leading Google Search for over 10 years.

In 2013 Ms Mayer ranked 31 in the Forbes Magazine list of the World's 100 Most Powerful Women, and the first woman listed as number one on the Fortune Magazine's annual list of the top 40 business stars under 40 years old.

Quoting from her Yahoo! biography: "During her 13 years at Google, Marissa held numerous positions, including engineer, designer, product manager, and executive, and launched more than 100 well-known features and products. She played an instrumental role in Google search, leading the product management effort for more than 10 years, a period during which Google Search grew from a few hundred thousand to well over a billion searches per day. Marissa led the development of some of Google's most successful services including image, book and product search, toolbar, and iGoogle, and defined such pivotal products as Google News and Gmail. She is listed as an inventor on several patents in artificial intelligence and interface design.

Prior to joining Google, Marissa worked at the UBS research lab in Zurich, Switzerland and at SRI International in Menlo Park, California. She graduated with honors from Stanford University with a B.S. in Symbolic Systems and a M.S. in Computer Science. For both degrees, she specialized in artificial intelligence. While at Stanford, she taught computer programming to more than 3000 students and received the Centennial Teaching and Forsythe Awards for her contributions to undergraduate education. In 2008, the Illinois Institute of Technology awarded her an honorary doctorate of engineering."

"Companies with the best talent win." Marissa Mayer, CEO Yahoo!

Ada icon by Sidney Padua Download the Thrilling Adventures of Babbage & Lovelace for your iPad (free). Enjoy their adventures, backstory and more on author Sydney Padua's 2D Goggles Web page.

Previous years

Ada Lovelace Day | Sunita Williams, Astronaut and Captain U.S. Navy 2012

Ada Lovelace Day | Betts Wald, US Naval Research Lab 2011

Ada Lovelace Day | Fran Allen, IBM Fellow and A.M. Turing Award Winner 2010

Ada Lovelace Day | Professor Lee S. Sproull, Stern School, NYU 2009

Ada Lovelace Day | Sunita Williams, Astronaut and Captain U.S. Navy

October 16, 2012 · · Posted by Greg Lloyd

ImageAda Lovelace Day celebrates the contributions of women in science and technology. This year I've chosen to write about Suni Williams, NASA Astronaut and US Navy Captain currently commanding Expedition 33 on the International Space Station. I hope young women reading about Ada Lovelace Day now are encouraged by her example to pursue their dreams where ever they may lead - here on Earth or as the first Earthling to set foot on Mars.

Captain Williams graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1987 with a B.S. Degree in physical science and was designated a US Naval Aviator in 1989. She served as a helicopter combat support officer and officer in charge of a H-46 detachment for Hurricane Andrew Relief Operations before being selected for NASA's Astronaut Training program in 1998. She served as crew for on International Space Station Expedition 14, setting new records for female astronauts in space (195 days) and spacewalk EVAs.

On July 14 2012 Captain Williams launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome to join ISS Expedition 32 as Flight Engineer and Expedition 33 as Commander. On Aug 6, 2012 she and Flight Engineer Aki Hoshide completed a pair of spacewalks totaling more than fourteen hours to install a balky Main Bus Switching Unit, bringing her total EVA time for six spacewalks to over 44 hours. She is a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and the Society of Flight Test Engineers. Read Captain Williams' Why Did I Become an Astronaut interview for her personal story. Follow @Astro_Suni on Twitter.


Ada icon by Sidney Padua: I strongly recommend that you download the thrilling adventures of Babbage & Lovelace for your iPad (free), and enjoy more of their adventures on author Sydney Padua's 2D Goggles Web page.

Previous years

Ada Lovelace Day | Betts Wald, US Naval Research Lab 2011

Ada Lovelace Day | Fran Allen, IBM Fellow and A.M. Turing Award Winner 2010

Ada Lovelace Day | Professor Lee S. Sproull, Stern School, NYU 2009

Ada Lovelace Day | Betts Wald, US Naval Research Lab

October 8, 2011 · · Posted by Greg Lloyd

ImageAda Lovelace Day celebrates the contributions of women in science and technology. I've chosen to write about Betts Wald who was a branch chief in the Communications Science division of the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) when I first met her. I joined NRL in 1974 as my first real job - after serving in the US Army when I was drafted as a graduate student at Brown. It was a great experience. NRL was full of wildly talented, energetic and brilliant managers who knew how to get impossible things done in engineering and government, and taught that skill to their teams. Betts was one of the best: leading and inspiring her team, running interference, providing just enough technical guidance (i.e. to avoid permanent damage) while constantly encouraging and developing her team's talents. Women in science and technology should be encouraged to consider career paths as leaders as well as individual contributors: Betts is a great role model. Although I never heard Betts shout: "To the difference engine!", except for the pipe it would be in character. And I'm not certain about the pipe.

Ada icon by Sidney Padua: I strongly recommend that you download the thrilling adventures of Babbage & Lovelace for your iPad, and see author Sydney Padua's excellent 2D Goggles site.

Ada Lovelace Day | Fran Allen, IBM Fellow and A.M. Turing Award Winner

March 23, 2010 · · Posted by Greg Lloyd

ImageFor the second annual Ada Lovelace Day, March 24, 2010 - celebrating women in science and technology - I've chosen to write about Frances E. Allen, IBM Fellow, Turing Award winner and pioneer in the theory and practice of optimizing compilers. I've never had the pleasure of meeting her in person, but I'll take the liberty of calling her Fran, as Dick Merwin and everyone I know called her in their Fran stories.

According to her Wikipedia biography, Fran Allen grew up on a farm in update New York. After earning BSc and MSc degrees in Mathematics she joined IBM in July 1957, deeply in debt and planning to stay only until her school loans were paid. She stayed for a 45-year IBM career that included pioneering research and development in computer languages and compilers, leading her to become the first female IBM Fellow in 1989. She retired from IBM in 2002, won the Augusta Ada Lovelace Award that year from the Association for Women in Computing, and the A.M. Turing Award for 2006 (aka computing's Nobel Prize. Fran used the $100,000 Turing prize, funded by Intel, to start a fund to teach girls in areas of the world where educational opportunities are slim.

I first learned about Fran's work from Dick Merwin, then my boss at the Safeguard System Office, and former Engineering Manager of the IBM Stretch / Harvest computer. Stretch (aka the IBM 7030) was an extraordinarily ambitious and influential project to build the world's fastest computer; it was that - although it fell short of its 'stretch' goal of 100x faster than the IBM 704.

Very early in her career Fran played a crucial role in creating computer languages and compiler optimization techniques for the NSA's HARVEST system (which used Stretch technology) which Fran described in a Nov 2000 interview:

From abstract: " In response to government requests, IBM Research designed a system for a very large data processing application, known as the HARVEST system, including Stretch, which was delivered to the National Security Agency in the early 1960s. The combined Stretch-HARVEST Project created a milieu for developing new technologies, new hardware architectures, and new software to meet the challenges of both systems. One of the guiding principles of the project was to make programming easier by the use of a compiler to generate code automatically from statements in the user's language.

Allen was a member of the ALPHA language design team which created a very high level language featuring, among other things, the ability to create new alphabets beyond the system defined alphabets (e.g. English, decimal, integer, binary) and treat complex, heterogeneous data in high-level statements. In addition to an overview of Stretch-HARVEST, the talk will describe some of the lesser known aspects of the project the people and institutions involved, the political climate, and the shared knowledge, views, and value systems which were part of this interesting project at an interesting time in the history of computing. "

Stretch HARVEST compiler lecture by Fran Allan | Film | Computer History Museum

And finally: "Allen, 74, thinks women were more prevalent when she started her career--in 1959, three of her four IBM co-managers were women--than they are today. The shortage of women in IT "is getting worse," she says." Fran Allen 2007 Information Week Interview.

Footnote: I tip my hat to IBM for its early leadership in fair, progressive employment and promotion policies that encouraged recruiting, recognition and promotion of highly qualified women, minorities and others who suffered from discrimination. It was was not only a morally right action, but also a business decision that brought exceptional talent to IBM to the lasting benefit of IBM stockholders.

Order shirts or mugs with the Ada Lovelace Day art (shown above) by Sidney Padua, author of The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage - a free Web comic you'll surely enjoy.

Via here's a great Ada Lovelace Day 2010 presentation by Andra Keary

Ada Lovelace Day | Professor Lee S. Sproull, Stern School, NYU

March 23, 2009 · · Posted by Greg Lloyd

For this first Ada Lovelace Day I've chosen to write about Professor Lee Sproull an internationally-recognized sociologist whose research centers on the implications of computer-based communication technologies for managers, organizations, communities, and society. Professor Sproull is a pioneer and visionary in the rigorous study of what we now call social software.

I heard Professor Sproull talk at the MIT/Brown Vannevar Bush Symposium celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Bush's As We May Think. After the symposium I read and enjoyed her 1991 book Connections: New Ways of Working in the Networked Organization (co-authored with Sara Kiesler). Connections is based on original field research, social and psychological experiments the authors performed to understand how computer based communication technology - email, bulletin boards, computer networks - changed the way people communicate, work together, and make decisions.

In her 1995 talk at the Bush Symposium, Information Is Not Enough: Computer Support for Productive Work, Professor Sproull said:

Any vision of a new technology implies a vision of human beings and their behavior. In this talk I describe the vision of human behavior associated with the most influential technology visions of personal computing, epitomized by Vannevar Bush's Memex -- the vision of the solitary thinker and problem solver. I contrast this vision with an alternative view of how human productive behavior actually occurs -- in interdependent social relationships. I review the current state of computer support for social actors and propose an alternative view in which information processing is subordinated to relationship managing. - Abstract

Professor Sproull conducted research in Fortune 500 firms, scientific communities, municipalities, universities, software development teams, households, and electronic groups. In all of these settings she has documented how technology induces changes in interpersonal interaction, group dynamics and decision making, and organizational or community structure. She has been a visiting scholar at Xerox PARC, Digital Cambridge Research Lab, and Lotus Development Corporation and has published the results of her research in eight books and more than sixty articles including Essence of distributed work: The case of the Linux kernel, First Monday Volume 5, Number 11, Nov 2000.

At present Professor Sproull is Vice Dean, Academic Affairs and Professor of Information Systems & Management, Lawrence N. Stern School of Business, New York University.

About Ada Lovelace Day
On January 5, 2009 Suw Charman made a pledge to publish a blog post about woman in technology that she admires, but only if 1,000 other people pledged to do the same. Suw named this Ada Lovelace day in honor of the world first computer programmer and author of the first description Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine. Suw wrote:

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines. Whatever she does, whether she is a sysadmin or a tech entrepreneur, a programmer or a designer, developing software or hardware, a tech journalist or a tech consultant, we want to celebrate her achievements.

See the Ada Lovelace Day blog for news and special events, including Ada Lovelace day at the London Science Museum

New: Meet meet Ada Lovelace herself in a video interview by the original Analytical Engine!