Monday, March 23, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day : Ruth Adams

Just who is Ada Lovelace you may ask and why am I posting about her.

To honor the birthday of Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer, 1500+ people have signed a pledge to profile a woman in technology on March 24.  This is my contribution. Many people are blogging about her and other women of science. Ruth Wilson of the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology emailed to let us know that their guest blogger from today is the great-great-great niece of Ada - Honora Smith, Operational Research and Management Science at the University of Southampton.

Ada Lovelace, according to Wikipedia:

“Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (10 December 1815, London – 27 November 1852, Marylebone, London), born Augusta Ada Byron, was the only legitimate child of George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron. [the famous poet, Lord Byron] She is widely known in modern times simply as Ada Lovelace. She is mainly known for having written a description of Charles Babbage's early mechanical general-purpose computer, the analytical engine. She is today appreciated as the "first programmer" since she was writing programs—that is, manipulating symbols according to rules—for a machine that Babbage had not yet built. She also foresaw the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching while others, including Babbage himself, focused only on these capabilities.”

I have chosen the first women from Canada to be granted a patent – Ruth Adams. She was granted a patent in 1855 (before Canada was Canada) for a Reverse Cooking Stove – one of only 490 issued that year.

From List of Canadian patents from the beginning of the Patent Office, June, 1824, to the 31st of August, 1872 (1882)

No. 492-ADAMS, (R.,) of the City of Toronto, in the County of York, for a "Reverse Cooking Stove." Quebec, dated 20th January, 1855.

I found very little about our Mrs Adams. I looked in every reasonable resource on my local library’s database site. None had any information on Ruth Adams. I did find her name misspelled as “Addams.” The best place for information was ( where she has a full page. This is her only invention, but from the language and drawings in the application, they assume she was well education and bold enough to try.

“Ruth wrote, "My invention has the following advantage over other cooking stoves in use... cleanliness, beauty and convenience. Cleanliness, the smoke and ash are so secured that no inconvenience can arise therefrom. Beauty, as even the foot and kettle can be kept bright and clean. Convenient, as it's parts can be used within the whole."”

She was married (Reverend James Adams) and lived in Toronto. Her husband was from Esquesing, Halton Co. (where I currently live – now Oakville, Milton, Georgetown – Esquesing being near Georgetown) She had been widowed by the time she submitted the patent application and there is no mention of children.

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