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Ada Lovelace

The world’s first computer programmer.

In 1842, Lady Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, daughter of poet Lord Byron, wrote the world’s first algorithm that would in theory allow the Analytical Machine to compute a complex series of numbers, known as the Bernoulli numbers.

She wrote her algorithm 100 years before the first modern electronic computers were invented in the 1940’s. Although the Analytical Engine was never built, the design had all of the essential elements of a modern computer. Unfortunately, Ada never actually had the opportunity to see her algorithm tested because the man who designed the Analytical Machine was never able to raise enough funding to finish the project. Finally in the late 1980’s a team raised enough funding to follow through with the design of the Analytical Engine and not only discovered that the machine worked, but Ada’s algorithm did as well.

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Choe Yun-ui

Created the first printing press.

Choe Yun-ui created the first printing press in Korea circa 1234-1241. At the time, Korea was essentially cut off from the Western World, so it wasn’t until 200 years later that Johannes Gutenberg exposed his version of the printing press to Europe.

Because Choe Yun-ui did not have a good platform for communication to the outside world, Europe thought Gutenberg to have been the original inventor.

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Gregor Mendel

The father of modern genetics.

Around 1854, a monk named Gregor Mendel discovered the basic principles of heredity, through experiments on peas in his monastery’s garden. In his time, his work was generally overlooked by the scientific community as no one quite understood the importance of his argument and its evolutionary implications.

He was only able to conduct his studies for a total of eight years because he was elected abbot and tended mostly to administrative work the last 20 years of his life. It was not until after his death in 1884 that his biographer found his 40 page report tucked away in a pile of papers about to be burned and he brought Mendel’s work once again into the public spotlight. Mendel’s system eventually proved to be one of the foundational principles of modern genetics.