It is a little known fact that a woman, Augusta Ada King Byron, is recognised as the world’s first computer programmer. She wrote a step-by-step procedure, an algorithm, in 1843 to compute Bernoulli numbers on the Analytical Engine, the calculating machine designed by her mentor and ‘The Father of Computers’, Charles Babbage. Born on December 10, 1815, Ada was the only legitimate child of Lord Byron, one of the greatest and most widely read British poets. She was named Augusta but Byron called her “Ada.” Byron separated from his wife, Anne Isabella ‘Annabella’ Milbanke, when Ada was one month old. Byron never saw Ada again. Many eminent mathematicians and scientists of the 19th century, including the Scottish mathematician and science writer, Mary Somerville, home schooled Ada in mathematics and science. Somerville also introduced her to Charles Babbage in June 1833. A few days later, Babbage invited her to see the model for his Difference Engine. She was fascinated to see the machine and visited him often. Babbage was so impressed with Ada’s analytic skills that he called this 17-year-old mathematics genius the ‘Enchantress of Number.’ The British mathematician, logician, and University of London professor, Augustus De Morgan of De Morgan’s Laws fame also tutored her in advanced mathematics. Ada’s other scientific acquaintances included Sir Charles Wheatstone of Wheatstone Bridge fame, Michael Faraday of Faraday’s Law fame, and Charles Dickens, the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. In 1840, Babbage gave a talk at the University of Turin on his Analytical Engine. Luigi Menabrea, a young Italian mathematician and engineer, transcribed Babbage’s lecture into French and had it published in October 1842. During 1842-43, Ada spent about a year translating Menabrea’s paper into English and augmenting it with her own notes about the Analytical Engine. In her notes, Ada described the function of the Analytical Engine with an illustrated step-by-step procedure to compute Bernoulli numbers. Her notes were published in Scientific Memoirs, edited and published by Richard Taylor. In Ada’s biography titled, The Bride of Science: Romance, Reason, and Byron’s Daughter, historian Benjamin Woolley writes that the scientific community at the time appreciated Ada’s work, while Michael Faraday described himself as a supporter of her writing. Ada was also the first to realise that numbers could represent objects other than quantities, such as letters and musical notes. She wrote, “[The Analytical Engine] might act upon other things besides number, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.” In Pakistan, where the population of women in STEM academic disciplines hovers around 25 percent, women account for only 14 percent of the IT workforce The historian of computing and Babbage specialist Doron Swade writes, ‘It is this fundamental transition from a machine which is a number cruncher to a machine for manipulating symbols according to rules that is the fundamental transition from calculation to computation — to general-purpose computation — and looking back from the present high ground of modern computing, if we are looking and sifting history for that transition, then that transition was made explicitly by Ada in that 1843 paper.’ Essentially, Ada was first one to comprehend that such a machine could be used in the way it is in today’s modern world. In 1953, more than a century after her death, BV Bowden in Faster than Thought: A Symposium on Digital Computing Machines republished Ada’s notes. The Analytical Engine is now recognised as an early model for a computer and her notes are seen as a description of a computer and software. A few historians including Betty Alexandra Toole, Bruce Collier, Doron Swade, Dorothy Stein, and Eugene Eric Kim disagree that Ada was the first computer programmer. They argue that Babbage had written several programs between 1837 and 1840, much earlier than Ada’s notes. They also claim that the program for computing Bernoulli numbers too was written by Babbage and Ada only found an error in it. Stephen Wolfram, an inaugural fellow of the American Mathematical Society, disagrees with these historians, “there’s nothing as sophisticated — or as clean — as Ada’s computation of the Bernoulli numbers. Babbage certainly helped and commented on Ada’s work, but she was definitely the driver of it.” All historians credit Ada for publicising the Analytical Engine, publishing the first computer program, and seeing the potential of the Analytical Engine as a computational machine that could deal with entities other than quantities. Ada led a very difficult early life. Her mother did not care for her and often left Ada with her own mother. However, Annabella did instil in Ada an interest in mathematics and logic. Ada often remained ill and had severe headaches that blurred her vision when she was eight. At 14, she was hit by paralysis due to measles and remained bed ridden for over a year. Ada married William King-Noel when she was 20. They had three children, a daughter and two sons during the first four years of their marriage. In 1838, her husband was made Earl of Lovelace and, thus, Ada became the Countess of Lovelace. The ‘Enchantress of Number’ died of uterine cancer at the age of 36 on November 27, 1852. She was buried next to her father in the graveyard of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottingham, England. The US Department of Defence (DoD) developed the Ada language in her honour. The reference manual for the language was approved in December 1980 and the standard for the language was assigned number MIL-STD-1815, in commemoration of the year of Ada’s birth. On March 8, 2018, The New York Times published a belated obituary of Ada, “Ada Lovelace, a Mathematician Who Wrote the First Computer Program.” Many initiatives have been taken, mostly in the USA and UK, during the past three decades to honour Ada, and to encourage young girls and women to pursue and excel in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). The Lovelace Medal and Ada Lovelace Day by the British Computer Society, and Ada Developers Academy in Seattle, Washington are just a few examples. In Pakistan, where the population of women in these academic disciplines hovers around 25 percent, women account for only 14 percent of the IT workforce. It is imperative that we initiate Women in STEM like programs in order to encourage and help girls to pursue education and careers in these disciplines. Job Asaan, an employment facilitation hub for women, initiated by the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women, is a good step in this direction. The writer is Principal Punjab University College of Information Technology Published in Daily Times, May 24th 2018.