Inspirefest snapshot: The performer keeping the legacy of Ada Lovelace alive

8 Jun 2018

Zoe Philpott as Ada Lovelace. Image: Ada.Ada.Ada/YouTube

Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, was written out of history. Zoe Philpott is doing something about it.

The annals of history are not untouched by societal biases, and this is no more apparent than in the historical erasure of the world’s first computer programmer, Ada Lovelace.

For the uninitiated, Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, was born in London in 1815. By the time she reached her 20s, inventor Charles Babbage described Lovelace as ‘The Enchantress of Numbers’. Her appended notes on an article about Babbage’s Analytical Engine are recognised as the world’s first computer program. Ever prescient, she also correctly predicted that machines such as this could one day compose music, create graphics and be used for scientific purposes.

While she can’t be said to be languishing in total obscurity – the computer programming language ADA is named after her and ‘Ada Lovelace Day’ is celebrated in October – it still seems as if her massive impact on computer science is not given the level of credence it deserves.

The fact that public consciousness, which is fortunately shifting, has for a long time designated computer science as a ‘male’ profession seems to support this. This is where Zoe Philpott comes in.

Tech entrepreneur and performer Philpott has toured for years with her show Ada.Ada.Ada. Philpott has long had an interest in enabling the worlds of arts and science to collide, yet it is only in the last decade, she previously said during a general discussion about the nature of STEAM, that she has felt she can do this.

She previously came to Inspirefest’s 2016 Fringe festival bedecked in a LED-fitted dress to tell the story of Lovelace in the hopes of both promoting this amazing woman’s history and inspiring other women to follow in her STEM footsteps.

This year, Philpott will launch her latest interactive story, called Ada’s Army, which will see her inviting Inspirefest attendees to help her lift up other overlooked women in STEM history, who she will then add to the ‘army’ of fellow trailblazers.

For inspiration from extraordinary thinkers, catch Zoe Philpott and more at Inspirefest in Dublin on 21 and 22 June. Get your tickets now.

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic