Ada Lovelace Day wrap 2: Karen Spärck Jones elsewhere

Yes, this does mean that a third of these things is coming, but I wanted to point to some other profiles of Karen Spärck Jones, aside from my brief one. At least at the present time, she’s on the first page of most profiled Ada Lovelace Day subjects. I was really pleased to learn more about this inspiring scientist.

Martin Belam has a long profile quoting extensively from Spärck Jones’s interviews and speeches and focussing on both her own career progression: she worked with Margaret Masterman at the Cambridge Language Research Unit. “You have no conception of how narrow the career options were [for women],” is one of Belam’s quotes. Another one of her stories reminds me of more recent stories Pia Waugh has told me about the resistance of parents playing a role in girls not choosing computing careers (these days it’s apparently the perceived low earnings and limited career prospects of programmers from the point of view of ambitious parents, so at least something has changed):

We were trying to get at girls in schools [to take up computing] and we knew we had to get to the teachers first. We found that the spread of computing in the administrative and secretarial world has completely devalued it. When one of the teachers suggested to the parents of one girl that perhaps she should go into computing the parents said: ‘Oh we don’t want Samantha just to be a secretary’. That’s nothing to do with nerdiness, but the fact that it’s such a routine thing.

Bill Thompson was a student of Spärck Jones’s, and writes about her influence on him as a fellow philosopher turned computer scientist. He also wrote her obituary for The Times (and, in 2003, that of her husband, fellow computer scientist Roger Needham).

IT journalist Brian Runciman remembers Spärck Jones as the most interesting woman he’s ever interviewed in Computing’s too important to be left to men. (I think it’s very important to get more women into computing. My slogan is: Computing is too important to be left to men. seems to be Spärck Jones’s best known quote.) In the interview with him, she talked about how her ideas permeate modern search engine implementations.

She scored smaller mentions from: