Intellectual Curiosity: What Ada Lovelace Means to H1

Ariel Katz
Sep 17, 2020

“Notes” is a rather unassuming name for the piece of writing that earned Ada Lovelace the designation of “first ever computer programmer.”  

Born in 1815, daughter of famed poet and aristocrat Lord George Gordon Byron, Ada Lovelace was tutored in math and science as a child. As a young adult, Lovelace’s keen intellect led her to form a bond with mathematician and inventor Charles Babbage, who helped further her education before one of his inventions sparked her greatest contribution to computer programming. When tasked with translating an article based on Babbage’s speech about an analytical engine invention (transcribed during the lecture in French by Luigi Menabrea B), Ada was provided with a chance to share her visions of the future for computer programming.

The notes that she contributed wound up being longer and far more influential than the article itself, creating and publishing the first known algorithm, over 100 years before any working technology could execute it. She even managed to conceive, before the most rudimentary computers existed, of a reality in which machines had the potential to think and create on their own, prefiguring discussions about artificial intelligence that are dominating today’s technological landscape. Lovelace’s foresight and willingness to engage intellectually with the possibilities of a distant future are still astonishing, and they can serve as a lesson to all of us, scientists in particular.

The ability to look beyond what is currently “feasible” in the realms of medicine and technology and work towards a vision of a better future is something that was inherent to Ada’s work, and something that H1. continues to draw inspiration from. The H1. Ada module is a data-driven product built, at its fundamental level, to address the challenges of maintaining up-to-date records and meaningful indexes of healthcare institutions, clinicians, researchers, and their accomplishments. We know that meaningfully organized data about the “how” and the “who” in biomedical innovations is the first steppingstone to a future of advanced analytics that will hopefully long outlast our initial efforts, doing everything from predicting breakthroughs to maximizing collaborations. Just as Lovelace worked with another scientist and realized more of his ideas than he ever could, we hope others will use our tools to jointly pursue their goals and build off each other’s accomplishments. We hope for ourselves that by seizing on ideas that others can realize down the line, we embody one of Lovelace’s most moving sentiments: “[imagination] is that which penetrates into the unseen worlds around us, the worlds of Science.”